BOSTON — Milan Lucic didn’t opt to go the route many of his Bruins teammates did during the NHL lockout.
With many of his teammates — a league-most 12 of them in fact — heading overseas to play in Europe during the lockout, Lucic opted to stay in North America and wait it out on familiar territory.
When the B’s returned to informal practices upon the end of the lockout, Lucic’s conditioning level was questioned by some. A week later, he and his wife Brittany welcomed their first child into the world. In short, it’s been a whirlwind leading up to Saturday night’s season opener.
But if Lucic has any rust to knock off, he didn’t show it. The bruising forward, a notoriously slow starter, came out with energy from the jump, even getting the Bruins’ scoring going with a first-period goal. That goal was the byproduct of absorbing body contact through the neutral zone, sticking with the play and skating hard into the attacking zone where he slammed home a David Krejci rebound, putting it by reigning Vezina winner Henrik Lundqvist.
That play set the tone for a Bruins team who looked like it hadn’t missed any time en route to a 3-1 win over the Rangers.
“I felt great,” Lucic said. “Honestly, it was the best I felt all week since camp opened and the season started. Obviously, I was running on a lot of adrenaline coming into this game, and it’s just great to see all the guys step up and play a big game.”
Lucic, who is usually at his best when he brings the physical aspect of his game as well, was unafraid to throw his weight around Saturday night. After New York defenseman Marc Staal laid out Lucic’s linemate Nathan Horton behind the Rangers net, Lucic delivered a bruising check to Staal to settle the score.
Late in the third period, Lucic was at it again. This time it was some extracurricular cross-checking and trash-talking with Ryan McDonagh that actually led to an early exit for Lucic.
If Lucic was motivated by any sort of whispers about his weight and physical condition, he wasn’t letting onto that.
“It is what it is,” he said. “I don’t want to make too big of a deal about it. I feel good; I’m just going to go out there and play my game.”
That’s all the Bruins can ask of the power forward, and if Lucic brings that type of game every night, it will go a long way in making sure the Bruins are where they want to be in a few short months.