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Bruins notebook

Lucic buries goal and maybe slump

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / January 20, 2011

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For Milan Lucic, success comes when two elements are clicking: his legs are jackhammering and his mind is positive. Lately, even before he suffered an undisclosed injury that knocked him out for three games, neither had been in synch.

“After five games when I didn’t score, I was breaking sticks. I was harping on myself,’’ Lucic said. “I was getting frustrated, getting down. It’s not the right way to go about things.

“I wanted to make sure that the main thing coming back was getting back to feeling positive and feeling good about myself. Getting hard shots to the net and just relaxing. You relax and do the little things, and the bigger things will come.’’

With his third-period winner in Tuesday’s 3-2 road triumph over Carolina, Lucic hopes he has found the groove he lost late in December.

Prior to that goal, Lucic hadn’t found the back of the net since Dec. 16. Too often, he was chasing the game. He was late to pucks. By being a step behind the play, Lucic couldn’t gain puck possession and was left hustling to catch up, which is hardly a strength of his game.

On Tuesday, his second game back following the injury, Lucic, like most of his teammates, struggled with Carolina’s fast pace. But in the third period, after Chad LaRose was sent off for elbowing Zdeno Chara, Lucic went to the real estate where he should be dominating opponents with his size and shot: the front of the net.

As Mark Recchi hustled down the left wing, drawing a defenseman, a seam opened up for Lucic.

“I saw him going to the net, so it worked out good,’’ Recchi said. “I saw Looch, and Looch is good at going to the front. It’s a hard play for a goalie when you’ve got that much speed. I can come around. I can do a lot of different things. Looch was in a great spot.’’

The Bruins have been able to weather Lucic’s lack of production. In their last five games, they’ve scored 25 goals. As he’s usually done when Lucic first returns from injury, coach Claude Julien eased him back into the lineup. Lucic, formerly the No. 1 left wing, has skated on the third line the last two games with David Krejci and Tyler Seguin. Once Lucic finds his pace and timing again, he could regain top-line duty.

“It’s never going to be perfect,’’ Lucic said. “But I think I’m taking strides in the right direction to get it back. It seemed like the main thing was that I wasn’t moving my feet as much. That’s what was causing me the most problems.’’

Defense decisions Andrew Ference sat out his third straight game Tuesday because of an upper-body injury. The veteran defenseman will most likely be available tonight against Buffalo at TD Garden.

“Just a quick little one,’’ Ference said of his injury. “It’s easy compared to the long-term ones I went through last year.’’

If the coaching staff gives Ference the green light tonight, he would most likely replace Adam McQuaid on the third pairing. On Tuesday, McQuaid had 14:47 of ice time, least among Boston defensemen. If McQuaid sits out, Ference would most likely skate on the right side next to Mark Stuart.

McQuaid, however, hasn’t been a blemish on the blue line. He recorded two assists in Monday’s 7-0 rout of Carolina while throwing down with Troy Bodie in the third period. The following night, he was credited with two blocked shots and one hit.

“When we projected him for our team, we looked at him as a fifth or a sixth, but a real solid fifth or sixth,’’ Julien said. “He’s not the flashy guy who’s going to carry the puck from one end to the other. But he’s going to make some good passes and he’s going to make some good decisions.

“He’s strong, he’s physical, he defends well. He’s a better defenseman than a lot of people think he is. He’s starting to show that now.’’

Give them a break After touching down at Hanscom Field early yesterday morning, the Bruins were given the day off. They aren’t scheduled for another breather until next Tuesday when they will fly home from Los Angeles . . . With the back-to-back wins over Carolina, the Bruins extended their lead over the ninth-place Hurricanes to 9 points. “They could have closed, or if we don’t get the 2 points [Tuesday], then it’s basically a wash and we didn’t do anything to push them away from us,’’ Tim Thomas said. “This was a big series.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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