WILMINGTON (CBS) — Bruins head coach Claude Julien has not yet decided about making Milan Lucic a healthy scratch for the team’s next game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but all indications from Thursday’s practice point to the top-line winger watching Friday night’s contest from the press box.
Lucic, who was moved down to the “fourth” line with Rich Peverley and Shawn Thornton on Wednesday, skated in a green jersey with Jay Pandolfo and Kaspars Daugavin’s at Thursday’s practice. It was a good sign that Lucic won’t be playing Friday night, though Julien said that final decision has not yet been made.
“You saw where he was this morning,” Julien said. “It indicates that he may not play tomorrow but I haven’t decided that yet.”
If Julien does decide to sit the 24-year-old winger, Lucic said he wouldn’t blame the coach.
“No. No. I wouldn’t blame anyone but myself,” Lucic said. “If that’s what needs to be done in order to get myself going, then, you know, I’m what’s for what’s best for the team and not what’s best for myself. But like I said, I want to be a part of the team, I want to be better, I want to contribute, and I know I can be a big part of the team. Ultimately it all comes down to myself, so there’s no one to blame but myself.”
Lucic couldn’t say one way or the other whether sitting up at Level 9 for a game would help him get back on track.
“We’ll see. Time will tell,” Lucic said. “I hope it does help me and I think right now it’s just getting that hunger and emotion back in the game and trying to figure out how to play with it again to where it was and where it can be at such a high level. I think if I figure that out, everything else will take care of itself.”
Like Lucic, Julien can’t put his finger exactly on what is wrong with Lucic, but he said he hopes to see the winger simply “play his game.”
“If I knew, I’d certainly correct it,” Julien said. “We’ve tried different things. Right now, he doesn’t seem to be as emotionally engaged. Whether it’s confidence or whether there’s issues, I don’t know. I really don’t know. But we know what he’s capable of doing. Somehow we’ve got to hope that he finds that.”
Lucic has six goals and 18 assists this season. In an 82-game season, he’d be on pace for 12 goals, far below his average of 28 goals in the past two seasons. While he would on pace for a career-high 36 assists in an 82-game season, Lucic’s lack of goal scoring has been noticeably absent this season.
“It’s been a frustrating year,” Lucic said. “I want to be better, I’ve got to be better, and I just gotta do my best to try to work through this. It hasn’t really gone the way that you want it to go. You gotta find ways and find little things to try to work your way through it. It’s definitely not going to be easy. You’ve got to get over the mental hump. I think right now, that’s where it’s at. You just gotta get over the thinking process of thinking negatively and trying to think positively and hopefully can turn things around.”
As for where his confidence level is right now, Lucic stated plainly that it’s not where it needs to be.
“It’s not where it was two years ago or last year. It’s almost back to where I was at year three, where things are just not going the way that you want them to go.”
With just two goals in his last 27 games, Lucic said his path to playing better begins with cutting out the excuses.
“Enough with the excuses. You can’t just keep making excuses and saying all these things and pointing fingers and stuff like that. You’ve got to try to work yourself through it,” Lucic said. “And it’s times like this that if you get through it, it kind of makes you stronger as a person and as a player. That’s where I’m at right now — you want to try to get through it to make you stronger because you want to contribute for your team, you want to contribute for your teammates, you want to contribute for the fans and the city.
“For myself, I’ve taken pride in trying to be a big part of this team, and right now, it sucks because you haven’t had that same effect that you know you can bring.”
Julien has handled Lucic’s situation carefully, and with good reason, considering Lucic’s shaky confidence.
“He’s really trying to turn the corner but doesn’t seem to be able to,” Julien said. “As a coach, you’re trying to help him through that stuff. A big portion of it’s going to have to come from him, obviously. We can support him and give him opportunities, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to step up there.
“We also know what he’s done for this team in the past and what he’s capable of doing, and you just gotta hope that this player finds his game, because we’re going to need him.”