By all rights, Milan Lucic should have been spending today preparing for a Western Hockey League tilt against Tri-City. Or at least relaxing in his Charlestown apartment with roommate Mark Stuart, while Zdeno Chara, Marc Savard, and Tim Thomas traveled to Atlanta for the All-Star Game.
Instead, the 19-year-old Lucic, who was originally slated to spend 2007-08 captaining the Vancouver Giants in their quest to repeat as Memorial Cup champions, went to Georgia as a member of the 16-man roster for tomorrow's YoungStars Game.
"I'm excited," said Lucic. "It should be a lot of fun."
Perhaps an even bigger eye-opener than Lucic's performance with the Bruins this season is that he has never been selected for an All-Star game - WHL, British Columbia Hockey League, or otherwise.
But what has caught Claude Julien's attention might be the attribute that has allowed the winger to open eyes at every level.
Lucic entered training camp as a long shot, fresh off serving as Team Canada's captain during the Canada-Russia Super Series, but hindered by age, inexperience, and subpar skating.
But with eyes and ears wide open to his coaches and teammates, Lucic impressed, absorbing knowledge and applying it to his hard-hitting game.
Lucic made the team, skated in the season opener against Dallas, and dropped his mitts with Stars bruiser Brad Winchester, then recorded his first Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight) three games later in Boston's 8-6 win over Los Angeles.
Behind the scenes, the Bruins kept working on Lucic's game. Team vice president Cam Neely took the ice several times during the first half of the season, instructing Lucic on how to hold his position and play the puck along the boards. Julien made Lucic a healthy scratch Nov. 4 against Ottawa to allow him to get a different perspective from the press box.
Lucic, who started the season on the fourth line, skated on the second line with Glen Metropolit and Chuck Kobasew last night for the fifth straight game. In the first period, Lucic scored his fifth goal, reading that defenseman Freddy Meyer was pinching on the play. Lucic tapped the puck to himself against the boards and sidestepped Meyer to kick off the rush, took a quick glance Metropolit's way to throw off goalie Rick DiPietro, then put the puck over his blocker at 10:20.
In the second period, Lucic stationed himself in the crease to screen DiPietro, allowing Phil Kessel to score Boston's fourth goal.
"Anybody who saw him from Day 1 to now can see how much he's improved," said Julien. "He's much more comfortable and a better player."
Point not takenFor the fifth straight game, the third line of Vladimir Sobotka, David Krejci, and Pascal Pelletier used their energy to put forth a solid effort. But for the fifth straight game, the line failed to produce a goal.
"It's going to come," said Pelletier, shaking his head. "And when it comes, like the guys have been saying, it's going to come in bunches."
Pelletier, who scored 24 goals for Providence before his recall, was scheduled to appear in Monday's AHL All-Star Game. But as of last night, Pelletier believed he was going to stay with the big club through the NHL break, meaning he won't be available to play in the AHL game.
"That's a good thing," said Pelletier.
Julien gave Pelletier and the Czech Mates a late-game reward, sending them out on the power play with Chara and Dennis Wideman after DiPietro was called for tripping at 19:00. The line produced several scoring chances but couldn't find the net.