That changes on Saturday night in Detroit.
The bruising winger participated in Saturday’s pregame skate, and after receiving a positive evaluation on his surgically-repaired left wrist, he is expected to be in the lineup as the Bruins take on the Red Wings in preseason action at Joe Louis Arena.
“Looks like it,” he said with a big smile when asked if he expects to play on Saturday. “Everything’s progressed really, really well over the last two weeks, especially, and with the group decision, we decided that today would be a good time for me to come back. I’m excited to get into my first game here.”
When Lucic first arrived in Boston for training camp a couple of weeks ago, he said he intended to proceed with caution with his wrist because he didn’t want to risk aggravating the injury -- sustained during last year’s postseason -- by coming back too soon. Though he was a constant presence at captain’s practices and then at training camp, he has been held out of the B’s first three preseason contests.
Now that the swelling in the wrist has diminished — a result of plenty of physical therapy and treatment — Lucic appears to be a go.
“Just being in camp, and being back in Boston, and being here every day and having the treatments and the physical therapy every day — I think that’s what helped the swelling go down,” he said. “Also, there was a lot of pain in there, and there was a weight-bearing pain as well, and that’s gone away now. I think that’s what’s allowing me to play tonight.”
Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is confident that his teammate will be ready to go when the puck drops at the Joe.
“It’ll be fun to see him,” Hamilton said. “I think he’s been pretty good in practice. I don’t think he looks like he’s hurt, so it should be fun to see him in the game. He’s obviously a huge part of our team, so he’s going to help us out a lot.”
Lucic said he is most eager to finally get into a game situation, because no matter how many times you run a drill during practice, it’s just not the same as it is during a game — the pacing isn't the same, nor is the speed or the level of competitiveness.
“I think that’s an important part of preseason — getting into the game situation and taking a hit, getting in on the forecheck, battling on the wall and knowing where you are in the D zone again,” he said.
Though Lucic has spent a big chunk of his career playing on a line centered by David Krejci, that is unlikely to be the case on Saturday night, as Krejci’s group played in Friday night’s 5-4 overtime loss to Washington. During Saturday’s pregame skate, Lucic took the ice with Ryan Spooner at center and Jared Knight on the right wing.
For Spooner and Knight, there won’t be any nerves when it comes time to suit up with the veteran. They will simply do everything they can to get him the puck and make his job easier.
“He’s a great player,” Spooner said. “Probably just going to get the puck to the net for him — big body, so we’ll see how that works out.”
In his first camp with the Bruins, Knight played with Lucic, so he has some familiarity with him and is excited for another opportunity to skate on his line.
“It’s cool,” Knight said. “He’s a great player, and I’m playing with Spoons, too — I played with him a little bit in Providence, so a little familiar with that. It should be good.”
Lucic welcomes the opportunity to play with two young skaters vying for open spots on the Bruins’ roster because he thinks their excitement and their focus will be contagious.
“They’re in game mode,” Lucic said. “They’re in survival mode, doing whatever they can to impress the people [that can] help them stay around. So I think that will help push me and bring my level of game up to where you want it to be heading into the season.”
For Jared Knight, a native of Battle Creek, Mich., Saturday’s game at Joe Louis Arena will be a homecoming of sorts.
“It’ll be pretty cool,” he said. “I grew up playing here, and I was an ice boy once for one of the games in Detroit, and I’m going to have some family here and some friends. So it’ll be cool.”
With plenty of practices and one preseason game under his belt thus far in 2014-15, Knight feels as though he is beginning to settle into a groove.
“We’ve only been here a week, and it kind of feels longer than that, but every game, you try to build confidence. I’ve got one out of the way, so tonight should be better.”
Knight isn’t over-thinking his objective for Saturday night’s contest. Instead of trying to do too much, he will simply focus on the little things and is gearing up to play a tight, fundamentally-sound game.
“Just got to keep doing what I’ve been doing: going hard to the net, shooting the puck and moving my feet — doing all the little things right,” he said. “I think if I do that, I’ll be good.”
Hamilton has played in just one preseason game thus far — he sat out the Black & Gold Game in Providence because of a numbers situation, and he made his preseason debut against Washington on Wednesday night at TD Garden — but that has afforded him the unique opportunity to watch his teammates from high above the ice at press level.
“Everyone’s playing well,” he said. “I think it’s just showing how deep our organization is and how many guys can play. It just makes you want to play better, and I guess that’s the competition in camp — everyone’s got to play their best. So it’s nice to see guys playing well and working hard, and it’s a lot of fun in camp.”
Lucic, too, has watched each of the first three games from press level, and as a voracious student of the game, he was particularly appreciative of the opportunity to see the game from a different angle.
“That’s a whole different perspective, when you watch the game from the press box on the top floor,” he said, adding that watching from afar has made him even more eager to get back on the ice himself. “Just practicing hard and watching the other guys work hard, and work hard in games, and the younger guys battling for jobs — I’m excited to finally come back in a game here and be a part of that.”
The coaching staff obviously uses training camp as an evaluation tool, but so, too, do the players. In Hamilton’s case, he uses these practices and games to evaluate his progress and his chemistry with the other defensemen, particularly Zdeno Chara, with whom he was paired for a large chunk of the 2013-14 season.
“I feel pretty good — just have to keep getting better and keep getting used to the games,” Hamilton said. “Every game’s different, so you just have to approach it the same way. Hopefully, we can be good tonight and have fun, and hopefully, me and Zee can keep getting better, keep building chemistry and [hold] the other team to limited opportunities.”
Projected Lineup vs. Detroit
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Simon Gagne
Milan Lucic - Ryan Spooner - Jared Knight
Brian Ferlin - Chris Kelly - Ville Leino
Tyler Randell - Alexander Khokhlachev - Alex Fallstrom
Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton
Kevan Miller - Chris Breen
Matt Bartkowski - Chris Casto
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jeremy Smith