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Lately, Lucic has done bang-up job

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / May 21, 2011

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TAMPA — It remains a mystery to Milan Lucic why his game — crunching bodies, playing straight-line hockey, scoring ugly goals — disappeared early in the playoffs.

“I don’t know what happened,’’ Lucic said. “It was almost like going from one player to someone I didn’t want to be.’’

Curiously, an injury has only made Lucic play better.

On Monday, during power-play drills at TD Garden, Tyler Seguin winged a puck off Lucic’s right foot. Lucic limped to the bench, practiced that day, but didn’t participate in the morning skate the day after. Lucic didn’t skate on the morning of Game 3, either.

But if anything, Lucic skated better in the last two games than he had earlier in the playoffs, especially against Montreal (0-2—2 in seven games).

“The reason why I had success, and every time we were on the ice we had success, was because I was keeping my feet moving,’’ Lucic said after Thursday night’s 2-0 win. “It was just straight lines and making simple plays. No matter who you’re playing, when you do that, you give yourself the chance to have success. All in all, scoring goals and all that type of stuff is great. But in the playoffs, it’s all about getting wins. You’ve got to do all you can to help your team get that.’’

In Tuesday’s Game 2, Lucic planted himself in front of Dwayne Roloson. His screen led to Nathan Horton tipping a Dennis Seidenberg slapper into the net.

In Game 3, Lucic hunted down a loose puck in the right corner, then eluded Brett Clark and Victor Hedman to feed David Krejci for a net-front strike.

“His forecheck was good, he chipped pucks in,’’ coach Claude Julien said of Lucic after a brief practice yesterday at St. Pete Times Forum. “He went after the puck aggressively, and when you see a guy like Milan coming at you, it makes you nervous and can put you on your heels. So, he created a lot of turnovers [Thursday].

“But the other part is when he got the puck. We talked about that. It was important for him to be strong on it and not to lose it, which I thought he did in Game 2 a lot. He got stripped from the puck. Earlier in the game, he lost a couple of battles along the boards, and I just kind of reminded me him that the biggest asset of his game is about winning battles. I thought he did a great job of refocusing and bringing that part of his game back to that game that night.’’

Krejci OK Krejci, Seidenberg, Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara, and Mark Recchi were given yesterday off. Julien said Krejci is fine after being walloped by Marc-Andre Bergeron in Thursday’s first period.

“No issues with David,’’ Julien said. “He’s playing [today] with no issues at all.’’

Bergeron was called for elbowing, which drew the ire of Lightning coach Guy Boucher. Julien acknowledged that Bergeron’s hit was clean. The Bruins didn’t score on the power play.

“If you have time to look at the replay — you can look at it in slow motion and do all that stuff — you can say, ‘Well, it was a good hit,’ ’’ said Julien.

Positive move It appears only a formality that the Thrashers will relocate to Winnipeg, where Bruins goaltending coach Bob Essensa played for six seasons. Winnipeg would become Canada’s seventh team.

“There’s something to be said about those small-town Canadian teams,’’ said Essensa. “The community really rallies around them. Certainly, my best years hockey-wise were in Winnipeg. My most enjoyable years, from a community standpoint and a team standpoint, were there in Winnipeg. The players band together. There aren’t as many distractions like in a big American city. From that standpoint, you’re focused on hockey. You’re focused on your teammates.’’

Shane Hnidy, who calls Winnipeg his offseason home, also hailed the move. Hnidy played two seasons in Atlanta, where fan support has waned at Philips Arena.

Bergeron fine Patrice Bergeron reported no ill effects yesterday after playing Thursday for the first time in nearly two weeks. Bergeron reiterated that he had suffered a mild concussion and was ready to return. “I really felt that Patrice looked like a guy who hadn’t missed a step,’’ Julien said. “You would never have known that he almost spent two weeks without playing a game.’’ . . . Hnidy, Shawn Thornton, and Steven Kampfer remained on the ice for extra work with assistant Doug Houda, indicating they will be healthy scratches today . . . Seguin originally was credited for scoring the Bruins’ second goal in Game 3. It was switched to Andrew Ference after video review concluded that Seguin had not tipped the puck. “I was impressed with that 30-foot stick of his when he tipped that goal in,’’ cracked Julien.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto

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