EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Milan Lucic feels like he’s at home near the Pacific Ocean.
The weather, the lifestyle the scenery – Lucic loves it all.
“Just being from Vancouver, I know I was in Boston for eight years and everything went really great for me there, but once you’re born and raised a West Coaster I think that’s always inside of you,” Lucic said after his first training camp skate with the Los Angeles Kings. “That’s something that only someone from the West Coast would understand.”
The West Coast routine, along with the way the Los Angeles Kings play hockey, make this place an ideal spot for the Vancouver native. Los Angeles acquired Lucic from Boston during NHL Draft weekend for a package that included goaltender Martin Jones.
Whether Lucic still sees it this way after the season is another story – he’s slated to be an unrestricted free agent after the year at the end of his three-year, $18 million deal. But the entire situation suits him well right now.
“In a perfect scenario, this would be a place I could see myself playing out the rest of my career,” he said. “Again, obviously it’s no secret I’m on the last year of my contract and going into a summer where I could potentially be a UFA, but at the end of the day, I’m not too worried about that.”
In Lucic’s first day of training camp, Kings coach Darryl Sutter put him on a line with Anze Kopitar at center and Marian Gaborik at wing. Granted, one day of training camp doesn’t make a line trio, but those three should bring speed with Gaborik, power with Lucic and two-way headiness with Kopitar.
“With our play because we do play a puck possession game, he gets into the corner and I know from playing against him it’s tough to take the puck off of him,” Kopitar said. “That’s how we want to play. We want to wear teams down and it’s certainly going to help us.”
The Kopitar-Lucic duo should be quite an interesting pair for the Kings. They’re both 6-foot-3 and have good speed for men their size. Both are also strong on the wall. But they’re also both coming off mediocre seasons – 64 points for the 28-year-old Kopitar and 44 for the 27-year-old Lucic. Both players scored fewer than 20 goals last season and both are looking for big, new deals. For Kopitar preferably with the Kings. For Lucic, who knows?
There are always rumors that he wants to return to Vancouver where he also played junior hockey.
But after the Vancouver Canucks made some questionable moves this past offseason, maybe Lucic is better off with Los Angeles, provided the Kings want him back.
Not only are the Kings tailored for Lucic’s style of play, Southern California offers a bevy of activities for him and his children. Disneyland is currently his family’s favorite outlet for fun.
“I know my wife has taken my older daughter three times since we’ve been here,” he said. “We’ve adjusted really well since we’ve been down here in California and we’ve been loving it ever since.”
While Lucic is a big presence on the ice, he’s outspoken and well-liked by his teammates off the ice.
“I don’t really know him all that well yet but just knowing how big a part of it he was in Boston, I’m sure any time you get a guy like that it always helps,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said.
He has the type of rugged forechecking style that could elicit cheers from Kings fans at Staples Center with a big hit. His powerful early shift in the 2007 Memorial Cup is still stuff of Vancouver Giants folklore.
“It’s the type of player we don’t have, we didn’t have clearly,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “He’s a winner. He’s new to Los Angeles, but he’s not new to the league or new to hockey. I’ve seen him play for a long time.”
Is Lucic the missing piece to a Kings return to championship form? Last season, Los Angeles missed the playoffs. The team was absent of a certain ‘hard to play against’ element that it had when it won two Stanley Cups in three prior years.
It’s going to take more than just Lucic to get the Kings back to the playoffs. But as Lucic pointed out, he and the Kings both share that same hunger. With the Bruins last season, he missed the playoffs for the first time in his NHL career.
From the Giants through the Bruins and now to the Kings, there’s a certain winning demeanor Lucic has developed. Like Los Angeles last year, he slipped and that’s enough motivation to figure out how to get back to a championship level.
Said Lucic, “It’s been too long of an offseason.”
- - - - - - -
MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY