Bruins notebook

Lucic has been earning keep

Ever-improving Milan Lucic spent a lot of time pestering Sabres goalie Ryan Miller Monday. Ever-improving Milan Lucic spent a lot of time pestering Sabres goalie Ryan Miller Monday. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Email|Print| Text size + By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / December 12, 2007

DULUTH, Ga. - The observation, made by everyone from Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to Vancouver Giants coach Don Hay, is that Milan Lucic seems to improve at every stage of his career.

Yesterday, after an afternoon session at the Duluth Ice Forum, the Thrashers' practice facility, Bruins coach Claude Julien said the same thing.

"I thought he played pretty well in Toronto [Saturday]," said Julien. "I liked his game in Toronto, and I liked his game even more [Monday]."

Against the Maple Leafs, Lucic made his first appearance as the third-line left wing, skating alongside Phil Kessel and Peter Schaefer. In the first period, Lucic created space in front of the net, took a pass from Schaefer, and winged a close-range shot that thudded off Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala. Lucic skated 13 shifts for 11:15 of ice time in the 2-1 win.

Lucic was even better against Buffalo. He skated a career-high 15:35 over 19 shifts in a 4-1 victory. Lucic recorded two assists, snapped off a team-high four shots, threw three hits, and blocked one shot.

It was the first time he recorded a point since Oct. 12, when he had a goal and an assist against Los Angeles.

"He created some things," Julien said. "His skating was pretty good. He had forecheck pressure, was making the right play, was well-positioned most of the time, was in the offensive zone as the third man high. He had a couple chances in the slot area there.

The Bruins have proceeded slowly with Lucic, using him on the fourth line until now and keeping him out for four games - they considered sending him to Providence for the two-week conditioning loan allowed junior-eligible players - after he suffered a concussion Nov. 23.

"We certainly don't throw them to the wolves," Julien said of his younger players. "We give them an opportunity to get accustomed to speed and team play.

"When you see that they're doing well, you try and give them a little more. If they can handle it, they keep progressing. I think that's part of developing young players.

"If you give them too much to swallow at once, they end up having to take a step back. And that's sometimes more harmful than people think."

Wideman rewinds

Dennis Wideman, who assisted on P.J. Axelsson's winning goal against Buffalo, will bring a seven-game scoring streak into tonight's match at Philips Arena. Wideman has two goals and five assists during the streak.

Before Monday's win, Julien had a one-on-one session on the ice with Wideman. Julien told Wideman, who prefers a big windup on his slap shot, that pulling his stick all the way back isn't necessarily a good thing.

Julien brought up two examples from Saturday's game. When Wideman used his regular windup, it gave Toronto captain Mats Sundin enough time to get his stick in front of the shot and deflect it. In the second period, Wideman used a partial windup and scored the winner.

"There are times that Wides has a big windup and his stick is pointed at the ceiling," said Julien. "That's an extra second taken away from his shot. I don't think it takes away from the strength of your shot. It just takes time away from getting your shot off. So, just trying to break some habits."

Clearing up

Marco Sturm, struck by a deflected puck while sitting on the bench Monday, didn't practice yesterday. The area around Sturm's right eye was purple and swollen, but the left wing said he should be ready for tonight's game. "There was no way we were going to send a guy back out when he can see only half of what he usually sees," said Julien. "Too dangerous." Sturm, who skated only four shifts against the Sabres, said he had blurred vision after the injury but was seeing better yesterday . . . When Andrew Alberts lost his stick during a Buffalo power play, Axelsson gave his to the defenseman. Axelsson played without a stick for most of the penalty kill, but both the left wing and Julien said it would have been too risky to skate to the bench to retrieve another one. "You never want to make it a five-on-three," Julien said . . . Andrew Ference (knee) and Vladimir Sobotka (shoulder) practiced yesterday and could be available tonight. If Ference is activated, the Bruins will most likely place Tim Thomas (groin) on injured reserve retroactive to last Wednesday . . . Chiarelli on goalie Jordan Sigalet, still sidelined after his in-game collapse Nov. 16: "Slowly, slowly, slowly recovering. But there's a good chance he won't be back this year."

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