BOSTON – Like most Patriots fans, Milan Lucic is anxiously checking for updates on the status of New England tight end Rob Gronkowski’s injured ankle heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl clash with the New York Giants.
Unlike most other fans, the Bruins winger has a pretty good idea what Gronkowski is going through.
Lucic played just 50 games in the 2009-10 season, and his effectiveness was limited in those, as he struggled to deal with a high ankle sprain similar to the injury Gronkowski suffered in the AFC Championship Game against Baltimore.
"I really do feel for him," Lucic told NESN.com on Thursday, after the Bruins morning skate in preparation for a clash with Carolina at the Garden. "You can tell he’s one of the toughest guys around to be able to walk around with no boot already. He’s going to have a tough summer recovering from that thing, but it’s good he only has to deal with it for one game, even though it is such a big game."
Lucic is a Vancouver native, but grew up a football fan and has become a major supporter of the Pats since coming to Boston in 2007, just a few months before the last Super Bowl clash between New England and the Giants. Lucic has gotten to know Gronkowski a bit through meetings at charity events and is confident the record-setting tight end will still be able to make a positive impact in Sunday’s showdown.
"I think he’ll definitely contribute even with that [injury]," Lucic said. "He’ll do whatever he can to make sure he can contribute. I’m sure he’ll come up big when they need him to."
Lucic added that as bad as the injury is for Gronkowski, it was even more difficult to deal with for a hockey player.
"It’s a lot different, running vs. skating," Lucic said. "It’s the worst possible leg injury, other than obviously like a torn ACL, that you can have for skating. All I remember was that it was such a nagging injury and that it almost made you feel feeble down there."
Lucic was injured in a game in Minnesota on Nov. 25, 2009 when he fell awkwardly after a hit from Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky. He didn’t return until January and struggled with the injury for the rest of the season. After a summer of rest, Lucic returned healthy last year, and put up career highs across the board with 30 goals and 62 points in 2010-11.
That bodes well for Gronkowski’s ability to put together another huge season next year. But how well he can do on Sunday is the more immediate concern for Patriots fans across New England, including one patrolling the left wing at the Garden.