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Pregame Notebook: Lucic Reflects on Bruins Career as Boston Hosts L.A.

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — When Milan Lucic returns to the TD Garden ice for the first time as a member of the opposing team, he has no idea what type of reception he will receive.

He’s certainly put some thought into it — and of course, he hopes it’s a good reception — but he has no idea.

“I’ve actually thought about it a lot, especially in the last week, and what it’s going to be like,” Lucic said after the L.A. Kings skated at the Garden in preparation for Tuesday’s game against Boston. “I felt like I had a really good relationship with the fans, and we’ll see what the reception here is like tonight.

“I know when Gregory Campbell came back, he got a real great reception for what he did here, so we’ll see what it’s like here tonight.”

By all indications, Lucic’s should be just as rousing as the one Campbell received a couple of weeks ago.

“[Lucic] came here as a 19-year-old and was an important part of our hockey club for all the years he was here,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “He’s been a good soldier – I use that term a lot – for us. He’s been a fun guy to coach. I’ve enjoyed my time with Looch, and I’ve gained a lot of respect for what he’s had to go through as a young player, and the role he’s had to play, adapting between his grit, and obviously his performance offensively, and the statistics of goals and all that stuff.

“Those players have to tough roles to play, and sometimes, when you expect them to play that way for 82 games, it’s not realistic. And you know what I mean by playing a certain way. But he’s been a good soldier, and he’s been a player that’s been well-liked by his teammates. So there were some decisions to be made. We miss him, but we move on.”

Heading into the summer of 2015, Lucic didn’t know what would be in store for him. He knew he was heading into the final year of his contract. He knew the Bruins were making some changes. So when the news came on June 26 that he had been traded to the Kings, he tried to take it in stride.

“I understood the situation leading into the offseason, and sometimes, things don’t last forever,” he said. “That was one of them. I was ready and prepared for anything. I was ready and prepared to come back [to Boston], and I was ready and prepared if I had to move on.”

And if he did have to move on from Boston — the place that gave him his start, the place he called home for eight years — he was glad he ended up where he did.

“I think, luckily and thankfully, I’ve moved on to another really good team, another contender,” Lucic said. “The Kings are a world-class organization, and I’ve had a lot of fun being a King so far. So like I said, there’s definitely no hard feelings in the trade or anything like that, and there’s no regrets on my part in what I was able to accomplish [in Boston]. Just only good memories and good thoughts and everything, and pretty fortunate that I got to be a Bruin, and probably one of the best times to ever be a Bruin.

“They’ve only won six Cups in the 92 years that they’ve played, so like I said, it was a great time for me here. It was a special time for me here. But I’m also real fortunate that I was able to move on to a great team and a great organization like the Kings.”

When Lucic reflects on his time in Boston, there are plenty of memories that stick out — on and off the ice — and plenty of relationships for which he is grateful, both personal and professional.

But of course, one memory is a bit more meaningful than the others.

“Obviously, when it’s the place that you started, and you come here as a 19-year-old rookie and end up having the success that you do, a lot of things cross your mind — especially when you get to achieve your ultimate dream of winning a Stanley Cup, and doing it with the group of guys that I got to do it with, and the organization that I got to do it with, in the city with the fans and everything,” he said. “I think that’s what sticks out the most, is getting to be a part of a Stanley Cup-winning team with an Original Six team.”

Given the success Lucic had in Black & Gold — over the course of eight seasons, he registered 139 goals and 203 assists for 342 points in 566 games, and played in two Stanley Cup Finals — Tuesday night bodes to be a little bit strange. For both sides.

“It’ll be a little different, that’s for sure, but I’m excited,” said Bruins forward David Krejci. “I’m excited to see him play against us. It’ll be fun for us, and for the fans, and I’m sure for him as well.”

Even Krejci has put some thought into the type of reception his former linemate might receive.

“What I want and what I expect is the same thing, pretty much,” he said. “I hope it’s going to be nice. I’m sure he was really loved by all the fans here, and as his teammate, we’ve been together through so much.”

For many years, the Bruins benefited from having Lucic’s size and bruising physicality on their side. Now, weird as it may be, they’ll have to prepare to play against it.

“It’s definitely going to be a big challenge,” said Patrice Bergeron. “He’s a great player, but also tough to move and move around and take the puck away from him. So yeah, it’s going to be definitely a tough matchup.

“He was a big part of our offense with us, and I think his style of play definitely resonates with the Bruins’ style of play over the years. So he’s definitely a great teammate, and someone that I wish him all the best.”

Though this game will probably be unlike any other he will play in for the rest of this season, Lucic will do his best to treat it just like that — like any other game.

“You kind of have to take a business-like approach to tonight’s game, and I think it will be a lot of fun,” he said. “I think it’ll be a hard-fought game, and lots to look forward to for us. The start of a seven-game road trip, here, so we want to start off on the right foot.

“For myself, [it’s the] first time I get to play in the Garden as a visitor, and it’s kind of weird being in the visiting locker room here and stuff like that. But it’s nice to be back, and be back here in Boston, and playing in front of the Bruins fans again.”

Measuring Stick

The Bruins are well aware that the Kings are a tough team to play against — not just for them, but for any of the other 28 teams in the NHL.

They’re big. They’re physical. They’re heavy. They can score a lot of goals. They have a two-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender between the pipes.

Basically, the B’s will have their work cut out for them when he puck drops on Tuesday night.

“It is a measuring stick,” Bergeron said. “Their team has been very successful over the last few years, and I think it’s going to be a tight game, a physical game, and they’re a heavy team. They’re a team that is really on the puck, and plays well defensively. So every chance we’re going to get, we’re going to have to bear down.

“And on our side of the puck, [we have to be] taking care of the slot and not giving them too much because they have a lot of speed and some skill as well.”

Two weeks ago, the Bruins had another measuring stick type of game — this time, against the Kings’ Southern California counterpart.

On Jan. 26, Boston welcomed Anaheim to TD Garden and suffered a 6-2 defeat, one of their more disappointing losses of the season.

“We didn’t play well at all [against Anaheim],” Julien said. “And our guys can be much better than they were. I think right now, we’ve showed in the last few games there that we’re capable of holding our own against some big players and stuff like that. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue for us. Maybe we’re not as big as we used to be, but the pace of our game is a little bit better. So we’ve got to balance that out and take advantage of what we have done a little bit better.”

The Bruins firmly believe they are better than what they showed against the Ducks two weeks ago. In that that game, they got on the board first — a mere 40 seconds in — but they didn’t show much life for the remainder of the game and fell into a 4-1 hole rather quickly.

They know the Kings play a similar game to the Ducks. They also know they can’t submit a similar effort to the one they put forth two weeks ago.

“Hopefully, we learned from some of the game against Anaheim,” Krejci said. “They were strong and heavy on the puck, so we have to be really strong as well and play a good down-low game. They’re a really good team, especially one-on-one, when they battle in the O-zone and even in the defensive zone. So just be really strong and play smart.”

Tuesday’s game could be similar to the one the Bruins played against the Ducks back in January. But hopefully, the result will not be.

“We’re expecting the same kind of game,” Bergeron said. “We didn’t fare well last time against Anaheim, so it’s a big game for us before leaving on the road, so we need to definitely finish on a good note at home and make sure we feel good to head on the road.”

McQuaid Still Progressing

Once again, defenseman Adam McQuaid skated with the Bruins on Tuesday morning, but there is still no definitive timetable for his return to game action.

Julien said he has no intention of rushing McQuaid back from the undisclosed upper body injury he suffered on Jan. 5.

“I think he’s getting better and better,” Julien said, “and I think a lot of it will be about him feeling like he’s ready to go right now. So I think he’s improving a lot, with that extra skating that he’s doing and everything else, I think.

“I think my biggest concern with Adam was the fact that he was out almost five weeks, I think. It’s like [David] Pastrnak – he was out five weeks; you see he’s just starting to come around now. So we want to make sure [McQuaid] is well and ready to go because we’ve got some defensemen right now that are doing a decent job, so I don’t want to throw him in there too early.”

It is possible that McQuaid makes his return during the team’s upcoming season-long six-game road trip.

“It will depend – that’s what I mean by we don’t have a timeline, as far as that’s concerned,” Julien said. “It could be on the road trip, and if he’s not ready, it won’t be. So we’ll see.”

Projected Lineup Tuesday vs. Los Angeles

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronBrett Connolly

Loui ErikssonDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak

Matt BeleskeyRyan SpoonerJimmy Hayes

Zac RinaldoMax TalbotLandon Ferraro

Zdeno CharaZach Trotman

Dennis SeidenbergJoe Morrow

Torey KrugKevan Miller

Starting Goaltender: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Jonas Gustavsson

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