There's a happiness in Milan Lucic's voice that carries through the phone line three time zones.
Life as a Los Angeles King could absolutely not be any better. On and off the ice, the former Boston Bruins star is now in a good place.
"Once I settled in, I just loved everything about it," Lucic said Wednesday.
He loves where he and his family live in Manhattan Beach, loves the daily routine, loves his team.
Even the extra travel as a West Coast team doesn't bog him down.
"Obviously the travel is different and the road trips are longer, but the thing I enjoy is that even though we're on the road longer, we're also at home longer, we have longer homestands," Lucic said. "That's nice with the kids, get to spend pretty good quality time with my children."
Lucic says his wife and two daughters, ages 3 years old and 8 months old, have adjusted very well to life in L.A.
Again, the joy in his voice just describing his daughter's preschool comes through clearly.
"She loves her preschool. She does tennis, soccer, drama, hip-hop dancing, baking. She really, really enjoys it," Lucic said with a chuckle.
It's been a long road back for the 27-year-old Vancouver native, who was traded in June by Boston. The death of his father in April -- which Lucic revealed in November in a "Hockey Night In Canada" interview was a suicide -- has obviously left scars.
But he's forging on with his life. Hockey has been the ultimate healer.
"I've been good," Lucic said of coping with the personal tragedy. "The good thing, I've just been focusing on the hockey and my family. Sometimes you can use hockey as a benefit to kind of get away from all that other stuff. I've been trying to focus on the positive in my life. I even know from talking to people in my family when they see me and talk to me and hang out with me, they've all said they can see a change in me, they can see the old me where I'm happy again.
"I feel like I'm in a good place mentally and I just want to stay there."
And in a perfect world, that would include staying with the Kings past this season after his contract runs out. The pending unrestricted free agent has seen enough of life as a King to know he wants it to be his future.
"I hope it's here, just because of how great everything has gone and good the transition has gone," said Lucic, who is fourth in team scoring with 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points through 45 games. "I truly, truly deep down in my heart hope that I do get to remain a King after this season. Obviously, there haven't really been any [contract] talks yet. They've had a lot on their plate with the [Anze] Kopitar contract, but we'll just wait and see what it's going to look like moving forward. I would love nothing more than to remain a King."
There is no question the Kings want him back, but it's going to require salary-cap gymnastics.
General manager Dean Lombardi said via email that he had his initial planning meeting with Kings cap whiz Jeff Solomon on Wednesday to start looking at what's ahead for them.
"We are back at the drawing board now with Kopitar being done," Lombardi said.
If the Kings can't make it work with Lucic, so be it, the winger says he'll go into the free-agent market with an open mind and expect the unexpected.
But he stressed again that he hopes to make it work contract-wise in L.A.
It feels right with the Kings. And maybe that's because he's gone from a Boston team that contended for years and won a Cup in 2011, to another contender. It's all about winning and that's all Lucic knows in his DNA.
"I think it's made it so much easier on myself, coming into a place where the team already is an established winner expected to do well," Lucic said. "I didn't come into the team as a savior, I'm just coming here to help out as I can to get this team back to the championship level they've had here before. It's helped the transition a lot and made it really easy on myself to come to a team like this that expects to win every night. And I think it's made it a lot of fun, too."
The hunger to add a second Cup ring to his collection is huge for him.
"Getting to win a championship in 2011, I was 23, so fortunate to win one as young as I did," Lucic said. "Getting back there in 2013 and losing, you just realize how special it is to be able to actually win a Cup. So you want to make the most you can out of an opportunity to win it again. I feel like this year I have another opportunity to win one with a special team. You look at the balance of our club from our goalie out, we have all the pieces to be that championship team. It's just about playing our best hockey at the right time. We've shown that we can be that type of team come playoff time."
"Pretty spoiled as a winger, I'm not going to lie," said Lucic, chuckling.
It's been Kopitar for a while now as his center, which was the original plan when the Kings traded for Lucic, as the belief in the front office was that he would open up space for Kopitar to do his thing.
"He is really good with Kopitar," said one NHL head coach who requested anonymity. "Kopitar is playing pretty freakin' good. He's a great player but I really think Lucic helps him a lot. He is such a physical monster, he's so hard to contain. His presence is important."
On and off the ice, it just feels right for Lucic. That's about all he could ask for after last year's events.