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Bruins decide to keep Lucic rather than return him to junior Giants

NHL.com @NHL

VANCOUVER - Milan Lucic is staying with the Boston Bruins, and Vancouver Giants coach Don Hay is fine with that.

The Bruins have informed the Giants they will keep Lucic, the Western Hockey League star named most valuable player in last spring's Memorial Cup tournament, beyond the NHL's nine-game deadline for teenagers to be sent back to junior teams.

The Bruins could return the 19-year-old winger to the Giants at a later date.

"If he's helping Boston win, then he should stay with the Bruins," Hay said Sunday.

The Giants aren't the only one who could be denied Lucic's services. He's considered a prime prospect for Canada's entry at the world junior tournament, which will be held Pardubice and Liberec in the Czech Republic from Dec. 23-Jan. 6.

The Bruins have the option of making him available for the tournament.

"(Lucic) has improved a lot over the last three years," said Hay, who coached Canada to the 1995 world junior title. "Obviously, we'd really like to have him back. But if he shows he can play at that (NHL) level, then that's the level he should be at."

Hay made the comments after his defending Memorial Cup champions clearly missed Lucic's offensive prowess in a 2-0 loss to the Spokane Chiefs.

If Lucic plays 10 NHL games, the first year of his NHL contract kicks in. As a junior-age player, under the terms of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, he can not be sent to the minors and must be returned to the Giants if he does not stick with the Bruins.

Lucic has recorded one goal and one assist in seven games with the Bruins (5-2-0) while shuffling between the third and fourth lines.

"As the National Hockey League (season) progresses, they're going to have to continue to monitor and see how he's contributing in their games," said Hay. "If he's not contributing, then they'll have to look at sending him back. But if he's continuing to contribute, he can help them."

In September, Lucic served as Canada's captain in the Super Series, an eight-game series against a Russian select squad that commemorated the 1972 Canada-Soviet Summit Series. Canada posted seven wins and a tie in the series.

Hay, a former head coach of the Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes, said junior-age players deserve to stay in the NHL if they are physically and mentally ready.

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