Mi­lan Lu­cic

Re­turns from sum­mer of con­di­tion­ing

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - Edmonton oil­eRs

All coaches want their play­ers to be lean and mean.

And when it comes to Mi­lan Lu­cic, mean has never been a prob­lem.

One of the nicest guys you’ll meet off the ice, Lu­cic has played the game with anger in his eyes since ju­nior.

Now he’s fo­cus­ing on the lean part.

Not that he was ever out of shape in his first sea­son with the Oil­ers, but the bruis­ing power for­ward re­al­ized he needed to quicken his step to be more ef­fec­tive. So he spent the sum­mer chas­ing a lit­tle speed.

“Just like the team, I want to be bet­ter than I was last year,” said the vet­eran winger, who pro­vided the Oil­ers with the kind of tough­ness, lead­er­ship, ex­pe­ri­ence and swag­ger they had been miss­ing for more than a decade.

He also chipped in 23 goals and 50 points, an area he hopes to ex­pand on now that he has his feet un­der him in Edmonton and fi­nally had a full sum­mer to pre­pare.

“It was nice to be in one place all sum­mer long and fo­cus on my­self and my train­ing and my fam­ily,” he said, adding it was a lux­ury he hadn’t en­joyed in years. “I look at the three sum­mers be­fore and it was kind of hec­tic. Last sum­mer be­ing a UFA and not know­ing where I was go­ing to be, fly­ing around to places, down in L.A., up in Vancouver, in and out of Edmonton a few times. I flew around for a cou­ple of wed­dings.

“Be­fore that it was the trade (mov­ing from Bos­ton to L.A.), and my fa­ther pass­ing away. And be­fore that I had the wrist surgery.

“This was kind of the first sum­mer where I could get re­freshed and fo­cus on my­self, maybe be a lit­tle more self­ish and bet­ter my­self phys­i­cally and con­di­tion­ally and get my­self more ready and pre­pared for this sea­son and get back to the player I know I can be.”

He spent the off-sea­son in Los An­ge­les train­ing with for­mer NFL star Ter­rell Owens, who, de­spite his crazy rep­u­ta­tion, turned out to be a per­fect train­ing part­ner.

“He’s not re­ally what you ex­pect him to be from how he por­trays him­self in the me­dia. He’s very pos­i­tive and sup­port­ive. He’d hold ev­ery­one ac­count­able in the gym. It was great to have a guy like that. Get­ting to know him and work­ing out with him I can see why he was as great as he was. It was a great work­out part­ner to have and to learn from.”

The 6-foot-2 al­ter­nate cap­tain says he still weighs “in the low 230s” but it’s just pro­por­tioned dif­fer­ently.

“Even though the weight is the same, the body-fat num­ber is lower than it was last year. I guess it paid off from that num­ber alone.”

The orig­i­nal plan to play Lu­cic on the left side with Con­nor McDavid didn’t work out the way the Oil­ers ex­pected, but it turned out to be a case of all’s well that ends well be­cause Pa­trick Ma­roon filled the spot per­fectly while Lu­cic brought his im­pos­ing pres­ence to the se­cond line.

He’ll start there this sea­son with Leon Drai­saitl and Drake Cag­giula. Be­tween the two of them, Lu­cic and Drai­saitl com­bine for about 450 pounds of down­low puck pos­ses­sion.

“We do a good job of play­ing the give-and-go game, us­ing our size and strength and tak­ing the puck to the net,” he said. “That’s al­ways worked re­ally well for my game. I think it helped us last year when we did play to­gether ... the suc­cess we had was when we were play­ing that give-and-go, big-body type of game.”

Head coach Todd McLel­lan is con­vinced that Lu­cic isn’t big­ger, he’s cer­tainly bet­ter.

“I think he’s go­ing to have a much more com­fort­able start to the sea­son, ” said McLel­lan. “He’d been through two or­ga­ni­za­tions in just over 13 months (be­fore he ar­rived last year). It takes a while to im­merse your­self com­pletely into the or­ga­ni­za­tion. I truly be­lieve he’s there.

“He’s a great as­set for us in so many un­mea­sur­able ways. He can play with Con­nor, he has great chem­istry with Leon. I think he’s go­ing to have a tremen­dous year. We’re ex­pect­ing him to be a lit­tle quicker, it looks like he’s leaned out a lit­tle bit. We’re count­ing on him.”

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