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'HE'S PLAYING REALLY WELL'

While the goals haven't come (yet), Milan Lucic is giving the Flames a solid, well-rounded game: "It's just a matter of time" before he gets one, the winger says

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

He isn't searching for a hex bag hidden somewhere in his dressing stall. No suspicions of a malevolent shaman out there, gleefully jabbing pins in a No. 17 Flames action figure.

Seat-Indulgent pity parties aren't his style.

He'll resist the temptation to blame the fates, curse his luck or rail at the capricious whims of the notoriously-fickle sporting gods.

"I've tried the whole breaking sticks/slamming doors thing and that didn't work, either,'' Milan Lucic is confessing self-deprecatingly, following another night of near misses, eye-rolling thefts and untimely bounces.

"Everyone wants to pitch in offensively. We all want to help, to contribute, in that way. When it doesn't happen you can get mad. You can get frustrated. But where does that get you?

"I've been playing this game for a while now.

"What you've got to do is dig in, trust in what you're doing, and keep plugging away.

"You've got to maintain perspective."

To provide that very thing, daughter Nikolina and son Milan Jr., bossing a replica jersey of his favourite hockey hero, are in the room post-game to offer their support.

"Hey, pal," says Lucic, spotting his youngest, eyes softening, smile spreading. "How's it going?"

Still in search of a first goal in his new situation, 29 games in, it's not going - not yet - the way Milan Sr. had envisioned.

 

 

Yet in spite of the misfires, those chants of "Loooooooooch!" continue to reverberate around the Scotiabank Saddledome each time he staples an interloper to the woodwork, comes near a scoring chance or so much as even touches the puck. They've got his back, the way he has the backs of every one of the 19 compatriots who troop out for battle on any given night.

A recent upsurge in team fortune, a 3-1 trimming of the Ottawa Senators the latest example of a spiffy 3-0-1 record in the past four starts, has also made the wait somewhat more bearable.

"I think since the Vegas game I couldn't ask for better scoring chances,'' the Flames' highest-profile off-season addition reckons. "Tonight, a bunch more. I'm not getting down on myself.

"I feel like it's just a matter of time, a matter of sticking with it and bearing down.

"One's gonna go in.

"And once I get that first one, I can relax, exhale and start rolling from there, sit back and laugh at this tough time I've been going through."

In recent games, Lucic and his linemates - the lickety-split Dillon Dube and super-steady Derek Ryan - continue to develop their on-ice karma and provide a contentious defensive unit along with a reliable offensive option.

 

Video: OTT@CGY: Dube nets backhander off the draw

 

"He handles it so well,'' says Dube of the scoring straight-jacket Lucic is trying to extricate himself from. "Whenever we're out there, he's not deferring to shoot the puck every time. He's still making the right plays. Still doing the right things. He's not pressing. You can learn a lot from someone like that. It's awesome playing with him. Gives you a lot of confidence."

Flames interim coach Geoff Ward, of course, has a long history with the big, bruising winger, dating back to the Stanley Cup salad days nearly a decade ago in Beantown.

"I think he's playing really well,'' critiqued Ward, post-game Saturday. "He's getting in on the forecheck and winning pucks. He stays on pucks and protects them.

"He did a fantastic job with his tracks tonight. He's good defensively, very aware in the top of the D zone.

"He's not getting rewarded with goals right now and that's because he's playing so well away from the puck and he's playing hard.

"We like the game he's putting out there. I've got nothing but good things about the way he's playing.

"Eventually one's gonna drop for him.

"And I think everyone's going to be happy. Not just the guys on the bench but I think the fans are just dying for him to get one."

And whenever Lucic does - if there's any justice in this topsy-turvy world, it'll be here in front of the C of Red - that saddle-shaped roof rising above all of their heads may just pop right off its moorings.

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