Bruins left wing Milan Lucic was credited with eight hits Saturday night in Boston's 3-1 victory over Buffalo. So were the Sabres forwards, all 12 of them.
Lucic, only a 20-year-old in his second NHL season, bounded around the TD Banknorth Garden ice with devastating purpose, nailing every Sabre he came close to. He set the tone with four hits in the first period, drawing roars from the second sellout crowd of the season.
"I just went out there and finished my checks," said Lucic, "and tried to create some energy, give the fans a thrill. First things first: it's great to see the building full like that. You want to get them into the game and cheering, and no better way than a couple of hits."
Lucic is 6 feet 3 inches and 228 pounds, but his size doesn't accurately measure the effect he has on a team. He's got energy and enthusiasm as he steps into opponents, knocking them flat or ramming them into the boards. And his hit total Saturday night didn't even count the times a Sabre veered away because he could feel Lucic coming.
"It's what Lucic does for your team and what he creates on the opposing team," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "If you are in a foot race with Looch, half a step ahead is the worst place you can be. You want to have three or four steps on him or let him go."
Buffalo defenseman Henrik Tallinder made the most obvious dodge of Lucic, in the second period, when he simply let Lucic get to a puck first.
Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward said Lucic creates a "lasting impression" on the other team's defensemen and added that his teammates started to call Lucic "Moses" in the second period after "[he] parted the seas and the defenseman went for the front of the net and he just took the puck behind the net. Good for him if he's creating a reputation for himself and guys think twice about going to get the puck. [It gives] more time for his linemates."
Marc Savard is one of those linemates, along with Phil Kessel. They are speedy, and Lucic works that to his advantage.
"I felt like I had four or five chances right in front of the net," Lucic said. "In junior, I always played with quick, fast guys and it helps me move my feet to try to keep up with them. Playing with those two guys [Savard and Kessel], you've got to be ready at all times because they know how to find you in key areas."
Lucic, who has four goals and four assists in 14 games, has contributed 51 hits this season.
"That's just the way I play and the way I'm going to keep playing," Lucic said. "I feel like when I am physical I am creating space for my line."
"We want to make this a hard building to play in," he added. "We play 41 games here, so it's up to us how hard we're going to make it on other teams."
The Bruins had the day off and get back to practice this morning at Ristuccia Arena. Boston, which gained a share of first place in the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference with its victory over Buffalo, next plays the Blackhawks in Chicago Wednesday night, then hosts the Canadiens Thursday.