On Thursday night, Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic will enter Montreal’s Bell Centre for his 37th career regular season game against the Canadiens.
But following his last meeting with the storied rival, Lucic knows he needs to keep his cool.
In the final minutes of Boston’s 6-4 loss on Oct. 16, Lucic was assessed a boarding penalty and on his way to the box, made a lewd gesture and a cup raising motion. Upon exiting, he proceeded to argue the penalty and was assessed a misconduct and shown the gate.
He was subsequently fined $5,000 for his antics in Montreal – the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Lucic said following last month’s incident, Bruins’ President and Alternate Governor, Cam Neely, had a conversation with him.
“He understands there comes times when you can lose your cool and stuff like that,” Lucic said of the conversation, “but you have to suck it up and not react in a way like that where you’re doing something like that.
“That was kind of the main message that he had.”
For the 26-year-old, the incident at the Bell Centre was the epitome of his season to that point. Lucic said he’s struggled with his confidence in the early going following offseason surgery to his left wrist.
“It’s not like I was worried too much about that before,” said Lucic of worrying about his play between the whistles. “But coming off the injury and it being a wrist injury, (I was) questioning whether it was 100 percent and a little hesitant to go into the corners and all that type of stuff.”
Through 17 games, Lucic, a left-handed shot, says he’s still feeling the effects of the surgery especially when it comes to shooting the puck. However, a meeting with Chris Stewart and the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 30 has helped steer things in the right direction.
Lucic finished the night with two shots on goal, four hits, the fight and a minus-1 rating while logging 18:03 in ice time during Boston’s 3-2 win over the Sabres.
“That was a good test,” Lucic said of his first fight of the season. “Had a couple hits and got hit a couple times and everything was fine and I was able to just kind of relax and start playing my game again.”
Since his last trip to Montreal, Lucic has three goals and four assists in 11 games. He was pointless and a minus-1 prior to the visit to Montreal.
In 36 career games against the Habs, Lucic has seven goals and 10 assists to along with 92 penalty minutes.
Lucic knows the building will be electric tonight.
“It’s just the nature of the rivalry and there’s a lot of hatred between the two teams. Obviously being in the same division and the way that the playoff standings work now, you’re fighting for every point and every divisional game means that much more,” he said. “Since I’ve been in the league, I’ve played them four times in the playoffs and I think that adds to it as well.”
Lucic infamously got into a verbal altercation with Canadiens players in the handshake line following Boston’s seven game second-round loss to Montreal last spring.
“I do enjoy going there, it’s fun, it’s part of being a competitor,” Lucic said. “It’s great to be a part of rivalries like that. It’s not like I hate the city and it’s not like I hate the people of Montreal. Its just when you’re on the ice, it’s a different animal than when you’re off the ice.”
With a young family to consider, the Vancouver native admits he’s begun thinking of pending contract negotiations.
Lucic has one more season after this on his three-year, $18 million contract. Afterward, he’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Lucic’s agent and the Bruins aren’t allowed to begin negotiations until next summer under the new rules in the CBA.
“I’d be lying if I told you that I hadn’t thought about it, but I’m just… I think the best way to think about it, is not to think about it and just focus on taking care of things on the ice,” said Lucic. “If you play well and do your thing on the ice, the contract stuff will take care of itself.
“I’m just focused on having a good season this season this year and good season next year and we’ll see what happens. My plans are to remain a Bruin and I hope it goes that way.”
Could Lucic see himself in another jersey?
“It would be tough… I think it would be tough,” he said.
What about the Red, White and Blue of the Canadiens?
“Never… I don’t think so… I don’t think so about that,” said Lucic chuckling. “Crazier things have happened. Who knows what the future holds.”