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Capitals lineup changes bring familiar faces vs. Bruins 04.19.12 at 1:38 pm ET
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Mike Knuble played parts of five seasons for the Bruins. (AP)

WASHINGTON — Nicklas Backstrom will be out of the lineup for Game 4 after being suspended by the league for cross-checking Rich Peverley in the face. The Bruins know that, and they also know the guy jumping into the lineup in his place.

Former Bruin Mike Knuble, who had the first of his two career 30-goal seasons while playing for Boston in 2002-03, will enter the Capitals’ lineup Thursday skating on the Washington’s fourth line.

Knuble, 39, finally saw his production and playing time fall off this past season with the Caps. After totaling at least 40 points in eight straight seasons (with at least 53 in five of them), Knuble had just 18 points and a minus-15 rating in 72 games this season. He’d also scored 20 goals or more in his past eight seasons before scoring just six during this past regular season.

Based on Washington’s morning skate Thursday, Knuble will play on a line with Keith Aucoin and Joel Ward.

Knuble’s presence in place of Backstrom isn’t the only lineup change anticipated for the Capitals. Defenseman John Erskine has skated on Washington’s third pairing with Dennis Wideman in place of Jeff Schultz for the last two days, suggesting the 6-foot-4, 224-pounder should be in the lineup for the first time since Feb. 12.

The Bruins – and Milan Lucic in particular –also know Erskine well, as Lucic has fought Erskine twice in his career. Erskine pummeled Lucic on Jan. 3, 2008, which was Lucic’s ninth NHL fight. The two had a much more evenly matched bout last season.

“It brings some toughness,” Capitals defenseman Mike Green said of having Erskine in the lineup. “You’ve seen him play. What you see is what you get. He brings a sense of humbleness to the other team. And that’s what we need.”

All in the all, the changes to Washington’s lineup means the Capitals will ice a grittier team Thursday night at the Verizon Center. Knuble obviously brings the wisdom of years, while Erskine brings a little more sandpaper. The Caps could use that vs. a very physical Bruins team, and if the series is to see its first fight Thursday, Erskine could be a likely participant.

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, John Erskine, Mike Knuble, Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic questions Karl Alzner’s toughness after crybaby gesture 04.16.12 at 11:21 pm ET
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WASHINGTON — Milan Lucic has been called a lot of things before, but Monday brought an accusation with which he feels unfamiliar.

With the Bruins on the power play late in the third period of Game 3 against the Capitals, Lucic was cross-checked by Washington defenseman Dennis Wideman. That led to Lucic scrapping with forward Matt Hendricks before defenseman Karl Alzner jumped in to take on Lucic. After the scrum was broken up by officials, Alzner made a crying gesture at Lucic.

“Well, there’s a lot of [proof] on my side to show that I’m not a crybaby,” Lucic said after the game. “That’s a lot coming from a guy I think who’s got two roughing penalties in three years, so there you go.

Asked whether he felt Alzner was the third man in, an offense that is punishable by a game misconduct, Lucic grinned and chose his words carefully before answering.

“Yup.”

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Karl Alzner, Milan Lucic,
Now healthy, Milan Lucic has to step up this postseason with Nathan Horton out 04.11.12 at 2:13 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — It became official Wednesday that David Krejci and Milan Lucic will not play with Nathan Horton this postseason, but could the Bruins’ first (depending on who you ask) line be even better than it was a season ago?

Milan Lucic has to replace what the Bruins will be missing with Nathan Horton. (AP)

It’s a tough act to follow, to be certain. Krejci led all postseason players with 12 goals and 23 points, while Horton’s eight goals tied for third on the team.

The line will obviously be different in that Rich Peverley will be skating in Horton’s place as he did in Games 3-7 of the Cup finals, but the biggest difference should be Lucic.

After leading the team with 30 goals in the regular season last year, Lucic struggled through a sinus infection and, later, a broken toe. He finished the playoffs with 12 points (five goals, seven assists), which tied for eighth on the team. The Bruins won the Cup, and he assisted two of Horton’s overtime goals against the Canadiens (including the series-clinching Game 7 tally), but Lucic didn’t look right. People wondered whether he was playing through pain.

As it turned out, he was. He’d had the sinus infection throughout the postseason, and he had his big toe shattered by a Tyler Seguin slap shot in practice between Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay.

Now, Lucic is healthy, and he’s ready to not only produce more offensively, but help in the other areas where Horton will be missed. When Horton is on that line, it’s a trio that features two big power forwards, making it a very physical and tough group to deal with. Peverley adds speed, but the extra bruising play will have to be provided by Lucic.

“I think I definitely have to play physical no matter what, but [Horton] definitely makes it easier, I’m not going to lie, because he is a big body and he’s got such great speed and we all know about his scoring touch,” Lucic said. “For myself, I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well the last 10 games, and using my body well all season long and I’ve been skating well. Being physical is a big part of my game, and I have to bring that in the playoffs.”

There’s no positive way of spinning of the loss of Horton, but Lucic can recognize that the situation heading into the postseason will be easier than it was the last time the B’s last Horton. Krejci had centered Lucic and Horton for the vast majority of the season, and the trio had built up a pretty strong rapport.

One Aaron Rome hit later, Krejci and Lucic found themselves with a new linemate while still four victories away from the Stanley Cup. There was no time for adjustment then, but they now have experience with Peverley based on the Cup finals and recent weeks.

“Yeah it does, definitely,” Lucic said when asked whether the familiarity with Peverley makes it easier this time around. “You go from playing a whole year with the exact same two guys, and then the last four games, Peverley jumps in the mix. This time, we’ve definitely played a lot more games together, and in these last couple of days of practice have gotten the feel of each other a lot more having practiced with each other. We’re excited for this series to get going, and we’re excited to get back into playoff mode. We want to be a big part of our team moving forward and having success.”

Peverley returned from a knee injury on March 25 and had four points (two goals, two assists), over the final eight games of the regular season. He brings a different skill set with a speedier game, but he showed he was capable of performing in the playoffs last season by matching Lucic’s 12 points despite playing most of the playoffs on the third line.

Ultimately, the Bruins are better with Nathan Horton without him, but the Krejci line should still be poised for success without him. Peverley had four points in five games in place of Horton last June, and Krejci has been known to elevate his game in the playoffs. At the end of the day, though, don’t be surprised if Lucic ends up being the real difference on that line this year. He wasn’t healthy enough to be a consistent force in the playoffs like Horton was a season ago, but there are plenty of reasons to believe he could be this time around.

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton
Milan Lucic is fully prepared for Dale Hunter and his ‘underachieving’ Capitals at 9:22 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Milan Lucic was just four years of age in 1993 when Dale Hunter delivered one of the most notorious hits in Stanley Cup playoff history.

It was on April 28 that year when Hunter laid out Pierre Turgeon, after Turgeon had just scored the clinching goal for the Islanders late in the third period of the decisive Game 6 of their opening playoff round against Hunter’s Capitals.

Hunter was understandably ticked. But he inexplicably checked Turgeon from behind and into the side boards, separating his shoulder and knocking him out of the next round against the defending champion Penguins.

Hunter received a then-record 21 game suspension for the hit. Turgeon returned for the semi-finals against the eventual champion Canadiens after missing seven games.

Fast forward 19 years and Hunter is now coaching the Capitals in the first-round series against the defending champion Bruins. The Capitals – who finished with the best record in the NHL two seasons ago – were 42-32-8 but had to struggle to get into the playoffs this season in the final week, finishing as the No. 7 seed. That’s quite a change for a team that fired Bruce Boudreau early on this year because they were 12-9-1 and underachieving with names like Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.

“You can say the Capitals have probably underachieved a bit this year,” Lucic said of the Capitals, who actually won the season series against the Bruins this year, 3-1. “They have a lot of great players over there that can definitely do some damage. They’ve had some success against us this year. Season success and playoff success are two different things, which we’ve found out in the past. We know that they’re a great team and have a lot of great weapons and a lot of great players who can step up and be an impact in this series and I think that’s what’s going to make this a real challenging and hard-fought series for us.”

Hunter instilled a new dedication to physical play and no doubt realizes his finesse-laiden Capitals need to channel at least some of his toughness against the new Big Bad Bruins in order to have a chance.

“Especially playing under Dale Hunter, I’m sure they’re going to be real physical,” Lucic said. “They have some forwards that definitely will get in there and get dirty. Even a guy like Ovechkin is not afraid of the physical play and likes to use his body. It’s a way that they have success. For us, we have to do whatever we can to be physical and I think that’s what’s going to make it even a better series because both teams are going to go after each other.

“Part of our identity and part of our success is being physical, regardless of who we play so we have a game plan and we have a type of way we’re going to play and playing physical is one of the ways. We’re going to do everything we can to establish a forecheck and finish our checks and it’s important for us to do that.”

Lucic insisted the Bruins aren’t about to take the Capitals lightly and certainly place no significance on their No. 7 position in the conference.

“I think you definitely learn a lot,” Lucic said. “You can take from what you’ve done in the past and kind of use that experience, hopefully to your advantage. One thing that we did [this season] was that we never took anyone or any opponent for granted. Just because we’re second and they’re seventh doesn’t mean a thing right now. What happened last year is last year. This is a new year, new playoff. Everyone starts off at 0-0. It’s important for us to have a good start, come out strong and hopefully have a good game in Game 1.”

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Boston Bruins
Bruins know Cup defense is all about them, not the opponent 04.07.12 at 8:30 pm ET
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Through all the number crunching and scenario possibilities Saturday afternoon, the Bruins knew one thing – it doesn’t matter who they’re playing, they are focused on themselves.

And they like what they’re seeing in the mirror right now.

“Well it helps, it definitely helps,” Milan Lucic said of Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win, giving them four wins in their final five games. “Obviously, there was a bit of a worry I guess when we couldn’t even put two wins together. We were winning one, losing one. Winning one, losing two, winning one. So, you know the fact that we were able to kind of regroup and get things going in is definitely more of a confident feeling and we’re looking forward to the challenge that’s coming up ahead.

“It doesn’t matter at all,” Lucic said when asked if he was planning to pay close attention to Saturday’s night games to see if they’re playing Washington or Ottawa.

“There’s a good saying, ‘In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.’ So, you know, it doesn’t matter who you play or who’s on the other side. It’s about who’s in this room and how we’re going to play so we’re committed to that, and that’s our main focus right now.”

The Bruins are happy with where they’re at following a shootout win against the Sabres that left them with 102 points and the No. 2 spot in the East. They’ll be opening with the Capitals on Thursday at TD Garden, as the Capitals won Saturday night in New York while the Panthers clinched the Southeast Division with a win over Carolina, clinching the No. 3 seed in the East. The Capitals wound up as the No. 7 seed while the Senators – who will play the Rangers – finished as the No. 8 seed.

“I got the app that shows you all the scores on the old iPhone so obviously I’m going to take a look by the end of the night and see who we’re up against,” Lucic said afterward. “It’s going to be a hard-fought battle no matter who we play… We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Added Claude Julien, “That’s the feel that there should be in the dressing room. Anybody who decides who they want as an opponent, whether it’s, you know, saying, ‘Oh, I’d rather play this team than that team,’ or plays to pick their own opponents don’t deserve to win.

“That’s the way — this is a game. This is not wrestling, it’s not a fake sport, you don’t go out there and pretend to play and make sure you lose because you want a certain team to play against, because karma’s a pretty powerful thing, and I believe in doing the things right. And if we’re going to win, we’re going to have to beat every team that comes in our way, and that’s the way we’ve approached it.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Milan Lucic, NHL, Ottawa Senators
Brendan Shanahan on D&C: Brad Marchand ‘didn’t get it’ after five-game suspension 03.13.12 at 11:37 am ET
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NHL head disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan joined Dennis and Callahan Tuesday morning, discussing all things NHL and the job he has done in his first season on the job. Shanahan took over for Colin Campbell (father of Bruins forward Gregory Campbell) on June 1.

Brendan Shanahan hopes Brad Marchand understands his message. (AP)

Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin was not suspended or fined for his hit from behind on Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk Sunday. Shanahan explained the ruling on the hit, which was called boarding on ice.

“Boychuk’s shoulder is exposed, so it’s a green light, good time to hit, and just as the contact is about to be made Boychuk reverses the puck and turns his back,” he said. “It’s the same with [David] Krejci and Mark Stuart back in December. It was the same a while back when Zach Bogasian of Winnipeg hit Pierre Marc Bouchard of Minnesota, broke his nose and unfortunately there was a concussion, but we felt this was something we have to be consistent on.”

Bruins forward Brad Marchand has been punished multiple times by Shanahan this season, as he was fined $2,500 for his Dec. 5 slew foot on Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen and suspended five-games for his low bridge hit on Canucks blueliner Sami Salo on Jan. 5. Shanahan, who had talked to Marchand over the offseason at Marchand’s request over what he could and couldn’t do, said he had a “forceful” talk with him following his clip on Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin on Feb. 15.

“We had a conversation with Peter Chiarelli on the phone after the low hit on Emelin, which I didn’t think was as low as Salo. I didn’t think deserved a suspension,” he said. “There was just stuff about that hit that just sort of stunk. It wasn’t smart to be tempting fate almost as low. There was 1.6 seconds left in the period, it was in the offensive zone.

“It’s not illegal to hit a guy with 1.6 seconds left. It’s not. You can hit a guy whenever you want. But there were things about that hit … it was low again. It seemed from his remarks after the first suspension that he sort of didn’t get it. So we had a really good forceful conversation that didn’t result in a fine or a suspension, but I hope we got to him.”

As for the Bruins in general, Shanahan responded to the idea that he has a bias against the B’s when it comes to suspensions. Marchand, Milan Lucic and Andrew Ference have all been suspended this season for various infractions.

“It’s funny, people in Boston might think I have something against the Bruins, which is so absurd and crazy,” he said. “It makes you feel any better I can promise you all I have to do is flip on my Twitter page, or if I ever wanted to venture onto the internet, almost every team in the league thinks there a specific reason I hate their market and hate their city as well.

“I have to defend why I don’t hate Pittsburgh, or why I don’t hate Montreal, or why I don’t hate Buffalo, or why I don’t hate Minnesota. For Boston, it’s even more absurd, quite honestly. Talk about a team I grew up admiring. Cam Neely is probably the one player I tried to model my game after more than anybody. It doesn’t matter if it’s a team you grew up admiring, or a team you played for, there’s so much scrutiny in this job, you can do this job and you can’t sleep at night, if you don’t do it with as much integrity as possible. That doesn’t mean you’re perfect. You would love to have a perfect season in sports. You can objectively look at this hit and disagree with the assessment, and that’s fair. That’s always going to be fair. But it’s absurd to suggest in any market that we have a grudge or have it in against anybody.”

Read More: Alexei Emelin, Brad Marchand, Brendan Shanahan, Milan Lucic
David Krejci: ‘You just can’t turn it on when the playoffs come’ 03.02.12 at 8:46 am ET
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David Krejci knew full well what his February was like. Like his whole season to this point, it had been very up and down and inconsistent.

That all changed Thursday when the calendar flipped to March. The center-turned-winger was back at center and he netted his second career hat trick, finishing it off with an overtime goal that propelled the Bruins past the Devils, 4-3, in overtime.

Krejci had been in a huge slump coming in, just 13 goals, including two in 13 games in the month of February. His assist totals are also way off. He hasn’t had a helper since Jan. 31 and has 28 for the season, one reason why Julien moved him from center to wing.

But Thursday night with Tyler Seguin on his wing, Krejci was back at center. He looked reenergized and fresh, and most importantly, ready to contribute in a big way down the stretch as the Bruins try to regain their momentum for another spring title run.

“Yeah, I wasn’t thinking about it, I had two goals in the month of February,” Krejci said of his struggles in February. “But, you know, I just take it game by game. I want to do my best every game and I was feeling really good before the game and I got Segs on my line so I was excited about it. We click well together with Looch [Milan Lucic] and him and it was a good game for us. I know we had a little sloppy second period but we came back hard in the third and won the game. That was the most important thing.”

His coach has noticed an improvement of late.

“I think he’s really, he looks more comfortable right now,” Claude Julien said of Krejci. “As I’ve often said, he puts a lot of pressure on himself. He’s probably his worst enemy when things aren’t going well, and because of that, it doesn’t help him in the long run. You try and take some of that pressure off and say, ‘Listen, you’ve just got to go out there and play.’ So, when he feels good about his game, you see a big difference, and that’s what we’ve seen here.”

Like his previous two goals, his overtime goal came as the result of finding space in front of Martin Brodeur. And like his first two goals of the night his timing and positioning in front paid off.

“A little lucky that one, I guess. I was at the end of my shift, I was tired and, you know, Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] made a good play,” he said. “I kind of sensed it that he was going to throw it in front of the net and Z [Zdeno Chara] tried to jam it and I was just at the right time at the right place. I saw Brodeur was down so first thought was go upstairs and it worked that time.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, New Jersey Devils
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