WILMINGTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien has been trying to help left wing Milan Lucic regain his form.
After a one-game benching, Lucic returned to the lineup Sunday against Florida and was reunited with center David Krejci, with Rich Peverley on the right side.
Although he played just 12 minutes, 54 seconds, he had a team-high five hits and three shots on net, one of which was a terrific scoring chance. The second period was his best.
“It took a little bit,’’ said Lucic. “The first period, we didn’t have much going on, but after that, we did create a little bit. We know we’re going to have to bring a lot more when it comes to crunch time.
“We’ve shown in the past, and we’ve shown at times this year, that we can bring a lot more and that we are a big part of this team and hopefully we’ll bring it when it matters the most.’’
In Saturday’s loss to the Penguins, Lucic was a healthy scratch for the first time since his rookie season, and it was very difficult to sit upstairs and watch.
“It’s also the sense of pride that you want to get things going again,’’ he said. “You’re obviously not happy with how things have gone and not happy sitting out of the lineup. You want to show and prove you still can bring a lot to this team.’’
Lucic isn’t viewing the benching in a negative light. It’s something he will use as a motivator.
“You’re not happy ever sitting out of the lineup,’’ said Lucic. “You want to try to take all of the positives out of it.
“This is an important time of year. I’m not a guy who is going to start causing problems within the team just because I sat out of the lineup.
“It’s a different perspective sitting up there and getting to watch the game. I think it just kind of builds that hunger back in you that you want to make sure it never happens again. I’ll make sure it never happens again.’’
It was helpful to re-team with Krejci against Florida.
“I have a lot of chemistry with [Krejci],’’ said Lucic. “I played with him for a long time. I’m sure he enjoys playing with me as well.
“It was just going back and trying to simplify things and trying to start feeling good again and hopefully trying to get that confidence back. That’s the main thing right now, getting that confidence back and playing with that edge that I know I can play with. That’s what my main focus is right now.’’
The Bruins have four games remaining in the regular season, and Lucic said they want to be playing their best hockey by the time the playoffs begin.
“You want to be a contributor for this hockey club and I’ve shown that I can be a big part of this hockey club,’’ said Lucic. “As of right now, you’re just trying to find something to build off to kind of get you going. Sometimes it’s a bounce and everything kind of just moves in the right direction.
“I remember three years ago in 2010, I wasn’t playing my best hockey either. Game 6 against Buffalo, I made two plays and it ended up two goals and everything kind of turned around for myself. I ended up getting five goals in the next series against Philadelphia even though we lost.
“It kind of moved things in the right direction. When I came back the next season, it was still in my head and I was feeling pretty good about myself. You hope that something, it could be a bounce or even a hit or something like that that kind of sparks it because I know it’s there and you’ve got to do whatever you can to bring it.’’
Because of schedule changes that resulted from the Boston Marathon bombings, the Bruins are playing four games in six days. Julien is taking it day by day with regard to resting those who need it. Lucic said he is feeling healthy and strong.
“I think we’re all anxious for the playoffs to start,’’ said Lucic. “I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t. We still know that there’s a job to do. We still have a lot to play for with that division title on the line here.
“We’re not looking past these four games. We want to build our game before the playoffs start. That’s a good focus to have, not looking too far ahead heading into the playoffs.’’
Defenseman Adam McQuaid, who missed Sunday’s game because of an upper-body injury, practiced and made the trip to Philadelphia, where the Bruins play Tuesday night. Nathan Horton, who is listed as day to day with an upper-body injury, remained home. Captain Zdeno Chara, who was involved in a third-period collision against Florida Sunday, didn’t practice but Julien said he suffered no ill effects.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.