- James Murphy, Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- On Thursday night, the Boston Bruins will play their first meaningful game at TD Garden since completing their historical collapse to the Philadelphia Flyers with a 4-3 loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals this past May. Ironically, for Bruins winger Milan Lucic, that forgetful night was probably the best game of his 2009-10 season, as he scored two first-period goals pacing his team to an early 3-0 lead that it would eventually blow. While Lucic did his best to forget the sinking feeling of that loss and the Bruins' blowing a 3-0 series lead, he did try to maintain the approach and comfort level he had in that game.
After missing 32 regular-season games because of a hand injury and then a high ankle sprain, Lucic felt he had finally reached the physical and mental levels he needed to be at in that series against Philadelphia, and specifically in Game 7. According to the rugged winger, he has found those levels again five games into this season, and that is why he has had such a hot start with three goals and five points, including a goal and a helper in the 3-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
"You know, I think it all started around Game 2 of that Philly series and it just built over the next five games, with my best game being that Game 7," Lucic recalled after practice Wednesday. "I wasn't thinking about the ankle, finally, and I wasn't hesitant out there. I just felt good about my game and myself. I had a new confidence and I tried to build off that in the summer. I think I've been able to get that feeling again and that's why I'm playing better."
Lucic and linemates David Krejci and Nathan Horton are one of the hottest forward lines thus far this season, with a combined seven goals and 10 assists between the trio. According to Krejci, Lucic has been a major factor in their success because he is doing the little things that help his and his teammates' games.
"He's a big guy, and when he gets his skates moving, there's not many guys that can stop him," Krejci said of Lucic. "You see him going into the corners and digging the puck out the way he is and that's when you know he's on his game."
Bruins coach Claude Julien sees that, as well as a confident, energetic Lucic who is just happy to be playing instead of worrying about an injury or thinking about the game too much.
"I think he missed the first half of [last] season and it's hard to catch up," said Julien. "So he was a little behind the eight ball for most of the year until the playoffs, when he seemed to find his game again. This year, he gets a fresh start. But at the same time, we're not just going to point the finger at his ankle. I think he's playing with a lot more energy and he certainly seems excited about his new line and what he's accomplished so far. Excitement creates energy, and energy usually creates good things."