BOSTON (CBS) – Milan Lucic says he hasn’t been back to Rogers Arena in Vancouver since the night he and his Bruins teammates raised the Stanley Cup over their heads in June 2011.
Despite returning to his hometown in the offseasons, Lucic says the bitterness from the city’s residents about the Bruins’ seven-game victory against the Vancouver Canucks still makes it uncomfortable to go near that rink, even for a concert or other event.
Well, this week Lucic won’t have any choice but to return to the scene of Boston’s greatest hockey moment in the past 41 years. Fresh off their victory in Toronto Sunday night, the Bruins left Monday for a three-game tour of Western Canada. The trip starts in Calgary on Tuesday, continues in Edmonton on Thursday and then ends against the Canucks on Saturday.
Although the Bruins should face an overwhelming amount of venom when they visit Vancouver, Lucic is looking forward to the trip for the chance to play close to home and the bonding that typically comes with a long road trip.
“For myself, being from Western Canada, it’s always great and nice to head back and kind of play where you’re from,” Lucic said. “And I remember three years ago, it was a big part of our team coming together … we were out there for a week and the team really came together. And we’re looking forward to getting on the road a little bit here. We had a lot of home games in November and hopefully we can get that road feeling again and create that bond in the dressing room and that camaraderie again with this road trip coming up.”
When the Bruins left for a six-game road trip in February 2011, they had no idea that four months later they’d be kings of the NHL. Just before leaving, they acquired center Chris Kelly. And then after they won on Long Island, the Bruins were getting ready to play in Ottawa when Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart were shipped to Atlanta for Rich Peverley. The personnel shakeup, however, didn’t stop the Bruins from going 6-0 on the trip, including wins against the Oilers, Flames and Canucks.
The Oilers and Flames are floundering this season, and the Canucks have been inconsistent under new coach John Tortorella. Really, anything less than five out of six points will be a disappointment for the Bruins, who took back first place in the Eastern Conference with their win against the Maple Leafs.
If the travel isn’t enough to mold them into even more of a team, they also have the challenge of filling in for injured teammates with Kelly, Loui Eriksson and Dougie Hamilton all out. Kevan Miller was banged up at the end of the game in Toronto and Shawn Thornton is back home awaiting word on his suspension. A flu bug kept several players off the ice for practice Monday.
There will also be plenty of drama, with Jarome Iginla making his first trip back to Calgary since he was dealt to Pittsburgh last season. And the Bruins will face former teammate Andrew Ference with the Oilers.
It will be well worth staying up late this week to see how the Bruins respond to adversity and the usual rigors of being away from home for a lengthy period of time. A championship team was solidified out West back in 2011, and this year’s trip could wind up being something to look back at fondly once the championship team is crowned in 2014.
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