WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Last week when a group of Bruins players were practicing at Boston University waiting for the lockout to officially end, a local sports TV anchor tweeted a picture of Milan Lucic down on one knee, catching his breath, with the following caption:
Milan Lucic clearly not in hockey shape. Extended water breaks & took a knee to catch breath many times
That tweet sparked chatter on the Internet and around the NHL that the rugged Bruins winger was out of shape and not ready to jump into action in the 48-game season set to start Saturday against the Rangers. But over the course of his NHL career, particularly in the wake of the increased media scrutiny following the Bruins' Stanley Cup win in 2011, Lucic has grown accustomed to rumors and ridicule and learned how to shrug them off.
“People are going to say whatever they want and it’s just something with me to prove them wrong and go out and play the way that I know that I can,” Lucic said Monday following practice. “People are going to say these types of things all the time. That’s one of the things that comes with being an athlete. Not everyone is going to like you and say what you like, so you need to be thick-skinned. As you get older, you learn to do that more and brush it off as best you can.”
As for where Lucic stands physically as the Bruins enter their third day of training camp Tuesday, he says he is approaching game shape thanks to his 13 teammates who played overseas during the lockout.
“I feel like the week of practice with the guys before camp really helped me a lot and I feel like I am getting back to game shape,” Lucic said. “It really helps with guys like Tyler [Seguin], [David Krejci] and [Zdeno Chara] and all the other guys that have been playing overseas because I am forced to keep up the speed with them. I’m following their lead right now, but I think I am finally catching up to where I need to be. But those guys are helping me push harder and get myself ready for the start of the season. If I’m not there for whatever reason and can’t play my usual minutes, then I am on board for whatever Coach wants me to do.”
Lucic realizes how important it will be for him and his teammates to be ready for the rigors of the shortened season.
“You go through an 82-game season and you lose a few games in October or November, even December, and you kind of shrug it off and don’t really think about it,” Lucic said. “But if that happens now in this season, you’re in big trouble. We’re probably going to appreciate more what NFL players go through where every game counts so much. We need to get off to a good start and not let up. There’s no time for lulls.”