BOSTON -- Everyone thinks the relationship between Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic and the Montreal Canadiens is adversarial.
Some might be disappointed that Lucic actually has a friend who wears a Canadiens sweater and will be battling him for every inch of ice in the upcoming Eastern Conference Second Round series, which gets underway with Game 1 at TD Garden on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Lucic and Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher are alums of the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. They work out together in the offseason. But the upcoming best-of-7 series won't be a time to reminisce about Vancouver or summer fun time.
"Well, you know we both understand what's at stake here," Lucic said. "We both want to win. And you know our friendship can wait until the summer. We both know that we're going to go out there and play our best and compete against each other just like we would against anyone else. You know that's one of the great things about sports as well, where you can have two guys that are friends and that have known each other for as long as we have, but when you go out there in a situation like this, you understand that you have to put that friendship aside and play for the brothers in your dressing room."
Even if he wants to go a little easier on the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Gallagher, Lucic will have 17 other skaters plus a goaltender to direct his ire at during the 34th Stanley Cup Playoffs installment of the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry. This will be the fourth time in Lucic's seven NHL seasons that he'll get to throw around his 6-3, 235-pound mountain of muscle and try to turn a series with the Canadiens in the Bruins' favor with his brawn as well as his skill.
Over the recent chapters of Bruins-Canadiens, Lucic has built up several individual rivalries. Most recently, Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin and Lucic have been involved in a few head-on collisions. Last season, Emelin walloped Lucic with an open-ice hit. But Emelin took the worst of it and missed the rest of the season because of a knee injury.
In the last Bruins-Canadiens game of the 2013-14 regular season, Emelin upended Lucic with a hip check. Lucic took exception during the game (Emelin would not engage in a fight) and after the Canadiens' shootout win, calling Emelin "a chicken." Video later surfaced of Lucic hitting Emelin with his stick in a sensitive area away from the puck during the game. Lucic was fined for a similar incident during the Bruins' five-game series win in the Eastern Conference First Round against the Detroit Red Wings.
"Well, like I've said before, him being a right D-man and me being a left winger, just by the forces of nature we end up meeting out there on the ice," Lucic said. "And I've said before too, he's a guy that plays physical and doesn't shy away. And he's done that so far this year in the first four games that we played throughout the season. And you don't expect that to change heading into the playoffs here.
"I think that's what makes rivalries rivalries, and playoffs great. Because you have battles within the game and games within the games. I know that's one of the things that a lot of people are looking at is that battle. So, like I said, you know he's going to be game, you know he's going to be playing physical and you've just got to be prepared for that."
Not too long ago, Lucic and another Montreal defenseman, Michael Komisarek, were involved in a similar feud, year-to-year, series-to-series. Lucic said his battles with Emelin feel the same.
"Yeah, definitely it does. It brings up that old battle for sure. And you know that was a lot of fun to be a part of. And I'm sure this one will be as well," he said.
Lucic is at his best when he's playing a million miles an hour and hitting everything that moves. That's why he had 24 goals and 91 penalty minutes this season and twice prior had more than 25 goals and 120 penalty minutes in a season.
"That just means he's doing his job," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
It also means he's a guy the other team can classify as evil.
"A lot of guys hate [Lucic]," Gallagher told Canada.com. "He's a tough guy to play against. He always plays hard. Of course, I'm sure there are guys over there who aren't too fond of me, either."
Lucic might be fond of Gallagher away from the rink. But when he puts that aside and sees those red, blue and white sweaters, he should have no problem searching for fuel for his engine, as long as it runs on a little hate.
"Yeah, I mean I do [hate them]. If you ask them the same question, I'm sure they'd give you the same answer about if they hate us," said Lucic, who scored three goals in the first round against Detroit. "You know it's just natural for me, being here for seven years now, and just being a part of this organization. You know you just naturally learn to hate the Montreal Canadiens, and the battles that we've had with them over the last couple years, it's definitely made you hate them. And I think this being the first time meeting them outside the first round, I think it's definitely going to go up another level."