Milan Lucic Looks to Get His Game Back on Track After Frustrating Stretch

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Milan Lucic Looks to Get His Game Back on Track After Frustrating Stretch Milan Lucic thought he had put his struggles behind him after suffering through an injury-plagued campaign last season.

This year, the Bruins winger got off to the best start of his four-year career as he tallied 16 goals and 27 points in his first 30 games. But in the past month, Lucic's struggles have returned. He has just one goal and three points in his last 14 games, and again was sidelined briefly.

This injury, the exact nature of which was not disclosed by the team, wasn't nearly as serious as the broken finger and high-ankle sprain that cost him 32 games last season. He missed just three games before returning on Monday, and the time off may have helped him start to break out of the slump.

"I think it helped," Lucic said before Thursday's game against Buffalo. "It's kind of nice to sit back and watch. You don't get to do that too often. Obviously I did a lot of it last year, but this year I haven't had to and it was kind of nice to sit back those three games and just watch. It seemed like the 10 games before my injury I only had one point and you could kind of see what you were doing wrong and what you could get back to doing right, so it was definitely nice to sit back and learn a little bit."

Lucic believes the solution is just to get back to basics.

"I think it's just keeping things simple and straight lines," Lucic said. "I'm at my best when I'm going straight, just up and down the walls and being strong on the puck. I feel I've done that more these last two games and that's why I've been rewarded for it."

Lucic did appear to regain some of his scoring touch in his first two games back. On Monday, he scored on a wrister from the slot, but the goal was waved off for a penalty on Zdeno Chara behind the play. But his goal on Tuesday did count, and it was a key one as he snapped a 2-2 tie in Carolina with power-play goal at 11:49 of the third period to lift Boston to a 3-2 win.

"It was nice to get a real one," Lucic said. "It would have been nice to have gotten that one [Monday] too, but obviously we didn't need it, and it was nice to get one when we really needed one. For myself, it's nice to get a big goal like that and hopefully I can build off that.

"In the last few games, I felt like I was getting back to where I was," Lucic added. "I was getting more shots like I was at the start and it felt good to get that goal. I have to do everything I can to keep it going."

While Lucic is starting to get his scoring touch back, his physical game is still lacking its usual impact. After giving a brief glimpse of his old orneriness when he picked up a match penalty for decking Atlanta's Freddy Meyer in a late-game melee on Dec. 23 and following up with a nine-hit game against Florida on Dec. 27, Lucic hasn't been racking up the checks at his usual rate. He has just 11 hits in eight games in January, including just one in the last three games.

But while he would like to be plastering opposing defensemen into the boards more frequently, Lucic feels his lack of hits has more to do with his increased puck possession on offense than any change in his style or approach.

"What a lot of people forget is that when you're first on the puck, you can't make a hit," Lucic said. "I think that's been a big thing this year. I've had the puck more and I've been able to get on the puck first and I haven't been able to make that hit because they weren't getting on the puck first and that's a reason why the number is down."

Lucic's fight numbers are also way down this year. After getting in 13 bouts as a rookie in 2007-08 and 10 the following year, Lucic had just four last year, largely because of his finger and ankle injuries. He opened this season with two fights in his first six games, but has not picked up another fighting major in the 38 games he's played since.

Lucic insists there are no injuries limiting his ability or willingness to deliver the big hits or drop the gloves with the frequency and ferocity that endeared him to Boston fans earlier in his career.

"It's moreso that the opportunities just haven't been there," Lucic said. "It's tough to fight when you're on the ice against certain guys. You look at the guys that I'm on the ice against most times, it's mostly guys that don't fight."

Still, this is the longest he's ever gone without a fight in his pro career. Lucic has often discussed how he views fighting as a skill that has to be practiced like every other facet of the game, which is part of the reason he has not shied away from dropping the gloves in exhibition games. So does he have any worries now about how he would fare after such a long layoff between bouts if the need arises for him to get involved again? 

"There might be, you can be concerned about it," Lucic said. "But you can't think like that. It hasn't happened in a while, but it's just one of those things. When it happens, there will hopefully be no rust and it will go my way."

After a frustrating month, Lucic's ready for a lot of things to start going his way again on the ice.

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