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Milan Lucic ready to help Oilers win

Veteran looks forward to playing with Connor McDavid, helping Edmonton return to playoffs

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Left wing Milan Lucic recognized the potential the Edmonton Oilers had when he signed a seven-year, $42 million contract on July 1. Now, he's determined to instill a winning attitude in Edmonton.

The Oilers have a proven general manager in Peter Chiarelli and experienced coach in Todd McLellan. They are moving into a new downtown arena, Rogers Place, and will be led by budding superstar center Connor McDavid.

There is much to be excited about in Edmonton, and the addition of Lucic, 28, is a big reason why, too.

"There has been a lot of change with a new building, new personnel," Lucic said Thursday on the first day of Oilers training camp. "I think the guys are doing a good job of turning the page and forgetting about what happened last year and the years before that, and focusing on what needs to be done in order to make that change in the right direction heading into this year.

"We've talked a lot about it, but now with the opening of camp today, it's about doing it. Today, with the fitness testing and all that kind of stuff, it seems like guys have come into camp in pretty good shape, which is a good sign.

"I think there is a lot of excitement within here, just walking around town and being here since the start of September, I know the fans and the people of Edmonton are really excited about the new building, the new team and the new additions, and I'm ready to get things going."

Edmonton has not qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2005-06 season, when it lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Final, and has made significant changes in an attempt to end that drought this season.

Signing Lucic was one of the Oilers' major offseason moves along with acquiring defenseman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils for left wing Taylor Hall.

Lucic and Larsson each are expected to make major contributions for the Oilers and help challenge for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Video: RAW | Milan Lucic

"Personally, I've thought about it a lot this summer and I've talked to people a lot about it," Lucic said. "You just have to be the person you've been over the last nine, 10 years of your life in your career. Having a positive attitude and having the right mindset, playing hard and practicing hard, working out hard in the gym and that goes a long way.

"When guys start to realize that you're doing things the right way and all that type of stuff, it tends to have a trickling affect. For me, I'm just going to come here and be myself and hope that trickling affect happens and I'm a good influence on all my teammates, and hopefully, I can be a part of a good team like I've done in the past."

Lucic (6-foot-3, 233 pounds) is entering his 10th NHL season. He spent his first eight with the Boston Bruins, winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 with Chiarelli as general manager. Lucic played for the Los Angeles Kings last season and had 55 points (20 goals, 35 assists) in 81 games.

"He [Lucic] has a presence and the size that he is, is great," Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle said. "I know guys listen to him. He's won a Cup, he's done a lot in this League. I think guys in the locker room will be looking to him for advice."

Lucic is projected to begin the season on Edmonton's top line with McDavid and Eberle.

The opportunity to play with McDavid, who is competing for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and will attend Oilers training camp after the tournament, was another factor in Lucic signing with the Oilers.

"I knew he was a great player," Lucic said, "and seeing what he's been doing in the World Cup has been a lot of fun to watch, and you see his speed and how he's able to burn guys and set guys up.

"That's obviously a guy that you're looking forward to playing with, and it's something that's great to see. He's obviously a world-class player and he's showing in a best-on-best tournament. The good thing is that he's going to be in game shape when he comes here for camp, and I think that's going to make it hard for guys like me to keep up with him right off the start."

Edmonton begins on-ice sessions Friday and will play two split-squad preseason games Monday against the Calgary Flames.

The Oilers open the regular season against the Flames at Rogers Place on Oct. 12.

Lucic believes he can help a positive mindset take hold in Edmonton this season.

"That negativity needs to find its way out of the players' minds and out of the dressing room, so that you're looking forward to the next day, no matter what happened the day before," he said. "Have fun working hard and playing hard with each other and practicing hard, and that's where it starts.

"It's something that doesn't happen overnight, but you try to do it with the right type of attitude and right type of mindset and it all starts here today."

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