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Slow going for Lucic

Winger trying to recover his speed

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / January 30, 2010

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BUFFALO - He still has a taut, rubbery sleeve wrapped on his left ankle, Milan Lucic’s reminder of the awkward twist he took just before Thanksgiving, sending the hulking left winger to the sideline for more than a month.

“It’s getting there,’’ Lucic said before he scored the Bruins’ lone goal last night in a 2-1 loss to the Sabres. “Feeling better each day, I guess.’’

Lucic, now in his third NHL season, is among the many Bruins who are in need of a jolt in light of the club’s 1-8-1 freefall. Since his Jan. 7 return, Lucic has one goal and two assists in 10 games. Lucic took one shot and landed five hits, one short of Mark Stuart’s team-high half-dozen.

But obviously lacking in his game: the familiar strong skating, reasonable and intimidating foot speed that often had him battling for pucks around the net or leading a daunting forecheck that routinely left his prey stapled to the boards.

“I am definitely not where I want to be or should be,’’ said Lucic, the left wing on a line with center Marc Savard, just returning from the disabled list, and ex-Sabre Miroslav Satan. “I would expect a lot more from myself, and I’m hoping maybe Savvy gives me a boost.’’

Count Lucic among those who believe he must do a better job generating speed to carry out heavy hits and be a force around the net.

“I know I’m not moving my feet like I can, like I have, and I’ve got to get over that,’’ he said. “I have to move my feet like I used to. I mean, that’s how I’ve been successful before, outracing guys to puck and pounding the boards. I have to be harder on myself.’’

Lucic broke a finger earlier this season, requiring surgery. The combination of fractured finger and testy ankle has hindered his effectiveness. His game has needed time.

“Hey, not everybody can be like Cam,’’ said Lucic, noting iconic Boston winger Cam Neely, who typically came back from injury with his game in full growl.

“You know, come back and just flip the switch.’’

Healing process
When asked if it most likely would be late in the summer before his injured knee fully heals, Savard said, “Exactly.’’ However, he didn’t feel he required additional time to heal from his most recent injury, which forced him to miss eight games.

“I feel good enough to play,’’ said Savard, who has 23 points in 29 games after he assisted on Lucic’s goal. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be back, because I would be hurting the team.’’

Savard was encouraged after his first game back.

“It felt pretty good,’’ he said. “A couple of shifts there I ran out of a little gas. But it held up pretty good. No pain at all after, and that’s a little surprising.’’

Savard was on the ice for 21 shifts and logged 18:26, almost two minutes of which came on the penalty-killing unit. None of his three shots made it to the net.

Sturm still ailing
Marco Sturm, out the last six games with a leg injury, reported to the rink yesterday hopeful he could suit up against the Sabres. Soon into the morning workout, he figured he didn’t have a shot, although he skated a couple of shifts on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.

“Honestly, I don’t know,’’ said Sturm, asked when he figured he could return. “I feel like I could come back pretty soon. But it’s still sore, and that’s why I’m not playing.’’ Asked if he might play tonight against the Kings at the Garden, he said, “Probably not.’’

Steve Begin (injury undisclosed) also skated in the morning but was not in the lineup. He sounded a little more optimistic about playing tonight.

Warm welcome?
Sturm to locker room visitor: “Enjoy your day in Buffalo.’’ Visitor to Sturm: “Thank you, most people don’t know that it’s considered the Bavaria of western New York.’’ . . . The Sabres made 27 giveaways, nearly three times Boston’s 10 . . . The Sabres won 58 percent of the faceoffs. Patrice Bergeron won only 6 of 16, Savard only 7 of 19 . . . The fourth line of Shawn Thornton, Vladimir Sobotka, and Byron Bitz only saw limited ice time. Sobotka led the bunch with a meager 7:29 in ice time. Perhaps coach Claude Julien will be more willing to go with a three-line attack instead of four . . . The Bruins landed 31 of 57 shot attempts. The Sabres reached Tuukka Rask with 23 of their 43 attempts . . . Ex-Bruin Steve Montador is a regular at left point on the Sabres’ power play.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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