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'SPECIAL INGREDIENT'

Milan Lucic and his revered physical presence welcomed by Flames coaches, teammates

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Asked to select a personal favourite Milan Lucic moment from their days together in Boston, Geoff Ward - after a measure of deliberation - chooses May 13, 2013.

Game 7, Eastern Conference quarter-final series versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We're down three goals, 4-1, in the third period at home with about 12 minutes to play," the Flames' second-year assistant coach is recalling. "So it's looking pretty bleak.

"We got one back, I think Looch set it up, and then scored two goals with our goalie out of the net in the final minute and a half or so. And Looch got the first one to get us going.

"Changed the whole momentum for our team. Changed our whole outlook. It gave us life. He gave us life.

"I mean, it was crazy.

"We ended up coming back and winning that game in OT.

"And for me, he was a big, big reason why.

"Afterwards, while we were all trying to process what had just happened, I remember thinking: What a moment for him. Everything coming together from first being in the league, showing his maturity, understanding what was needed and when it was needed.

"He virtually put us on his back to spur that comeback."

 

Video: Milan Lucic checks in from the Flames Golf Classic

 

Out at Country Hills early Wednesday morning, over six years removed from that unbelievable comeback at TD Garden, Lucic - for years one of the toughest hombres in the game - is naturally garnering the lion's share of attention before the shotgun tee-off at annual Flames' Celebrity Charity Golf Classic.

"He brings an element we didn't really have," is how GM Brad Treliving describes his acquisition from Edmonton in exchange for James Neal. "Building a team, you need different parts.

"It's like planning a great meal. You need different kinds of tastes, different kinds of ingredients, in order to make the meal stand out from the rest.

"(Lucic) gives you a special ingredient that I believe is still important in today's game.

"Sometimes when things don't go well somewhere, whatever the reasons may be, the best thing is to have a change of scenery, a re-boot, a refresh. I know he's done everything possible to put himself in the best position possible from the work he's done this summer.

"You need to be able to contribute, to play, but that ingredient we mentioned, that he brings, is understated, but invaluable."

Helping, as it does, everyone around him play with more sense of ease.

"I remember when we had (Krzysztof) Oliwa come in here (in 2003)," recalls assistant GM Craig Conroy. "He was tough. So right away, that sets a tone. Then we get Chris Simon. I was thinking about that the other day. Our first game after we got Chris, in Denver, we're standing on the blueline for the national anthems and (Simon) yells over to their bench: 'It's your worst nightmare come true, boys! I'm on the first line again! You touch Conroy or Iginla and you are dead!'

"He's got that deep voice.

"And you're kinda going: 'O … K …'

"We'd always struggled with Colorado. That night, we crushed them. I remember turning to Jarome, after Simon had yelled at their bench, and I'm like: 'Did you hear that?' And he said: 'Yeah. I was getting a little nervous over on this side, too!'

"There are guys on the other bench going: 'Whoa!' And your guys are going 'Whoa!', too, but in a different way, a good way.

"You bring in a guy like Looch, with that presence, and it can make such a difference.

"With a guy like Looch, people are respectful. They won't do it. Gives Johnny (Gaudreau), gives everyone, more room.

"The key is putting him in good positions. I read all the articles when he went to Edmonton and the expectations for him there were crazy.

"Here, all we want him to do is play and be part of the group.

"Geoff knows him and that's going to help, too. I think we're a great fit for him."

 

Video: "I like the mindset of our group. ...They're hungry."

 

The 6-foot-3, 231-lb., 2011 Stanley Cup winner has never been one to shy away from coming to the aid of the party.

"He's never been afraid to do (fight)," says Ward. "The key is that he understands when it's necessary and he's never going to put the team at risk. He's a big man who plays hard; a prototype power forward.

"I don't know what would be worse - he can give it to you with the fisticuffs but I wouldn't want to be a D-man turning to go back for the puck with him bearing down on me all night. Ask Mike Komisarek about it. That one time we played against Montreal, Looch just about ran him out of the series.

"He's also got pretty good hands, and his feet are quicker than everybody thinks. Once he gets those 230 pounds in motion, he skates pretty well.

"This is a guy who's scored 30 goals in the NHL and 20 a few times.

"The thing that's going to be refreshing for him is that he just has to be himself here. He just has to join the group. He doesn't have to lead the group.

"All he needs to be is Looch. And if he is, he'll be happy and we're going to be real happy, too."

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