BOSTON — The Bruins probably don’t necessarily like Milan Lucic fighting too much. He’s a top-six forward who has shown an ability to score goals, and he also brings a physical presence that is undeniable. However, that doesn’t do him or the team much good if he’s watching games from the press box with a broken hand.
But fighting is a part of Lucic’s game, and it makes him a better player. It’s part of his arsenal, one of his skills. So that skill, like the rest he showcases, must be sharpened for the regular season. Lucic got a chance to work on that part of his game Monday night against Washington.
Late in the first period Monday, Lucic dropped Capitals forward Dane Byers with a clean hit in the neutral zone. As Byers fell to the ice, Joel Rechlicz quickly intervened. The Capitals tough guy left Lucic no choice but to drop the gloves. The big forward isn’t necessarily one to back down from a challenge, and Lucic willingly went for it.
The result was as good of a preseason fight as you’ll see. Lucic and Rechlicz took turns trading thunderous right hands, each one seemingly bringing more destruction than the last. Eventually, both ran out of gas, and the fight was over.
It’s a dicey proposition for Lucic — or any other skilled player who means a lot to his team — to fight in the preseason. You want to stay sharp in all facets of the game, but just as importantly, you want to stay healthy. It doesn’t do Lucic any good if he breaks his hand on the face of a guy who has 26 NHL games to his name.
It’s a delicate balance, and it’s one the Bruins and Lucic expect the power forward to be smart about.
“There’s a lot of cons in fighting in preseason,” Lucic admitted. “You don’t wanna break a hand or get a concussion from fighting in the preseason. The pros are that you’re showing that no matter the situation, you’re going to stick up for your teammates, and that’s what it basically was there.”
It probably didn’t help ease any potential concerns that it was a marathon bout. The fight lasted about 45 seconds, with Lucic later admitting that he was (unsurprisingly) a little out of breath at the end of the dance.
“I was hoping he was gonna go down, but he’s a big, tough kid, I guess a great fight,” Lucic said. “I’m sure you guys enjoyed it. It’s always nice to get into one just because it’s been the offseason, and not getting into a fight and then having one like that, there’s probably no better way to get back into it.”
Fighting is part of the Lucic package, and he proved Monday night that it’s not necessarily exclusive to the regular season and postseason. Lucic got his work in, and he walked away as healthy as could be for a man who had a fistfight on skates. That’s all Claude Julien and the Bruins can ask for, and the head coach knows it’s just part of the game.
“Hockey’s hockey,” Julien said. “And you can’t — it’s unfortunate, I know you don’t necessarily like seeing that, but guys are used to playing the game a certain way, and preseason is about fine-tuning yourself, and it was what it was. And I’ll tell you what, that guy had a steel jaw, because he wasn’t going down and Looch kept throwing some pretty good punches.
“It was a fight for men, and people who enjoy that kind of hockey certainly got their money’s worth just on that one alone.”
It was also a fight for Lucic to continue his preseason preparations. If his performance was any indication, he’s in midseason form in at least one aspect of the game.