It’s a good thing he’s finally got two strong legs to stand on.
Lucic signed a three-year extension worth $12.25 million last October, but struggled throughout the final year of his entry-level deal thanks largely to a high-ankle sprain that dogged him most of the season. After a summer of rest and rehab, the rugged winger finally feels back to his normal self as he prepares for the start of camp next week.
"It feels better," said Lucic after the second day of captain’s practices at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday. "I can skate with it now with no tape on it. It feels strong after I’ve been on the ice on it for almost a month, so I’m definitely feeling pretty good about it right now. I’m confident that it’s going to hold up for the whole year and I’ll put whatever happened with it last year behind me."
Lucic would love to forget his 2009-10 season, when he was limited to 50 games and managed just 9-11-20 totals. The ankle injury cost him any shot of making the Canadian Olympic team for the Games in his hometown of Vancouver and kept him out of the Winter Classic at Fenway Park. Even when he did return to the lineup, it kept him from playing with the usual dominant physical presence Boston fans had been accustomed to seeing.
"It’s frustrating when you have an injury like that where it’s nagging you even when you do come back," said Lucic. "You know it’s still not 100 percent and every time you make a little move or you turn the wrong way you feel it. It stops you from doing what you do best, and that’s probably the most frustrating part of it. Hopefully I won’t have to deal with any of that this year and I can just focus on playing my game and having a good start and building off it."
Lucic will need to be focused, as he understands the expectations for him will be raised now that his $4.083-million cap hit is the second highest among the team’s forwards.
"There��s always going to be pressure with that [contract], but I think for me I’ve always been able to thrive on pressure," said Lucic. "I’ve always felt like I’ve always been able to play in big games. We’ll see how I do this year. I have pretty high expectations for myself, so I’ll do whatever I can to live up to those expectations."
Lucic did elevate his game in the postseason, putting up 5-4-9 totals in 13 playoff games to give him 10-10-20 totals in 30 career postseason contests.
He’ll be helped even more this year with the return of Marc Savard, who is looking to regain his form as he recovers from any lingering effects of a severe concussion suffered last March.
"I know he’s been training harder than he has in the past, so I’m kind of excited to see him too," said Lucic of Savard.
The concussion isn’t the only thing weighing on Savard’s mind, as he’s also been bothered all summer by trade rumors after signing a seven-year, $28.05-million extension last December.
"Obviously there were clearly all rumors," said Lucic. "Everybody takes it different. Savvy took it the way he did. His feelings were a little hurt, but I’m happy that he’s still a part of the team because I’ve felt that in the three years I’ve been here, he’s one of the guys that I’ve been closest with. We have a special bond off and on the ice, so I’m happy that he’s back and I hope he’s happy that he’s still around too."
Lucic is also happy to welcome top pick Tyler Seguin to the fold. "It’s going to be interesting to see what he can bring," said Lucic. "Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about him leading up to this camp."
Seguin is expected to make the leap directly from junior to the NHL as an 18-year-old after being the second overall pick in this June’s draft. Lucic, who made the Bruins when he was just 19 in 2007, knows the challenges that come with playing in the NHL as a teenager, and is more than willing to help Seguin make the transition.
"I remember my first year when there were things I had to do to adjust to this level," said Lucic. "There was stuff I worked on for the first three months I was here. You just can’t get frustrated when things aren’t going your way. You’ve got to just keep working at it. The thing I always looked at when I was young like that, I just went out there and played. I didn’t want to let any type of expectations or any time of pressure get to me. I just wanted to go there and play and have fun with it.
"It was definitely physical," added Lucic of the adjustment to playing in the NHL. "Obviously you go from playing with boys to men, so that’s a little bit of a difference there. But it’s also different mentally because of the grind that you have to go through and the pressure you have to deal with."
That pressure is something Lucic and Seguin will both face this season as they try to live up to the lofty expectations set for them, but at least it’s a burden they can share and help each other get through.