Bruins left winger Milan Lucic is finally back from his knee injury. In the latest installment of his player diary, he let's us know why he's going to be reckless on the ice, why he thinks he didn't make the Canadian Olympic team, and what odd souvenir he kept from the Winter Classic.
As told to Louise K. Cornetta
"The best part of being back and healthy again is playing in front of our fans, for sure. When I stepped out for my first shift on Thursday, it was pretty cool when all the fans did the Looch chant. That was pretty cool.
"I feel pretty good. Obviously, it's tough when you don't play for a long time and you come back, especially against a team like Chicago, where they are so good. It was actually kind of a good thing to come back and get tested against them. Hopefully it gets better every day where I can get my game back to where I want it to be for the later stretch of the season.
"The hardest part is getting my timing and feel back. You've got to re-create all that time and space that you created for yourself in the past. I think that's the main thing for me right now and my main focus. It's tough not to be hesitant out there. I think coming back from the finger injury was a lot easier than the knee because it's a bone and you know it's healed, whereas this was a sprain and you're a little bit hesitant because you know the effects from it. I think you've just got to try to be reckless early to put that confidence in your head that the knee can withstand a lot of pressure and hopefully I can get through that earlier than later.
"You can't compare practices to games. There is nothing like being in game shape other than playing in a game. You can do all the running that you want, but there is something about getting on the ice. Even the air feels different and you're breathing different. First time you step on the ice, even for a practice, your lungs are burning all the time.
"Then not being in a game in a while, when there's a lot of fans in the building, it seems like it's a lot warmer out there and you're huffing and puffing a lot more. That's the thing you've got to realize is you've got to try and make your shifts short so you can last the whole game. Because when you're out for a while, you tend to lose that. We'll see if I'm ready for my first fight again when it occurs. Right now, I'm just trying to get my game back. But if it occurs then we will see what happens.
"The team's been doing pretty well considering all the injuries with guys going down. We just lost [Marc Savard] three to four weeks now too. It tends to seem like we win one, lose one, then winning one and losing one. We've got to find a way to put a full effort together where we can put a winning streak together. This is a good time of year to start doing that so we can move up the standings and solidify ourselves to getting closer to securing a playoff spot.
"Something I missed was being able to take part in the Winter Classic. I didn't think I was going to miss being out of it as much as when I went there and saw how it was going. It was a great day. The weather held up and obviously it was a great ending for us with the overtime win. I was inside for the first two periods in the dressing room so I missed the 'Yankees suck' chant that I wanted to hear!
"The Red Sox's locker room was nice. They have a nice facility for how old the building is. I think John Henry treats the players pretty nice there.
"For the third period, I sat right beside the bench there right on the glass. That was awesome that I was able to experience it a bit. It was nice that we were able to score a goal to tie the game up. I was saying in my own mind that if we don't score a goal, it wouldn't be right to not see how the fans would have reacted to a goal in Fenway Park. So it was especially nice that it ended the way it did.
"I did keep something from the Winter Classic. While I didn't really get to play, I still got, along with my teammates, some NFL undergear that we used. The NFL has it since they play at places like Lambeau Field where it's really cold. So we got some that I kept. My favorite memory was the day before the Winter Classic, I was able to get out there and skate around with the snow falling, that was pretty cool.
"I also liked how Tim Thomas was named to the Olympic team at the end. I have six teammates now going to Vancouver. It's great. You can't cheer for all of them, but I know they'll have a lot of fun there. They are all obviously honored to be a part of their teams. I would love to have played for Team Canada, but I think the injury just hurt my chances completely. I mean, I've never seen a player make the team off the training table. It's tough. They picked the right team that they think will win the gold. I agree with all their decisions and the guys they picked for the team.
"What else can I tell you about that's been happening lately? Well, Christmas was good. We don't need to share what I got the girlfriend. I did stay up till midnight on New Year's Eve even with the Winter Classic being early the next day. We're headed on our West Coast road trip. We have games at Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles. My favorite city of those three is L.A. because I scored my first goal there. I have a lot of family in L.A. too. So I've got to go with that."
Louise K. Cornetta is an occasional contributor to ESPNBoston.com.