Nichols: Lucic 100 percent

August 3, 2010, 6:24 PM

The Boston Herald writes that it wasn’t wristers from the slot, but Bruins fans will be happy to know that Milan Lucic looked completely healthy while taking some batting practice swings at Fenway Park while promoting his upcoming charity softball game. The gritty winger missed 32 games with a broken finger and a high ankle sprain last season and has used the offseason to get healthy.

“Obviously I did a little bit of rehab on the ankle to start off the summer,” Lucic said. “I just gave it some rest and whatnot. It’s been a fun summer so far. I’ve been working hard and I just can’t wait for the season to get going.”

When asked if he’ll be 100 percent when training camp starts, Lucic offered an even more optimistic outlook.

“I’m 100 percent right now, so everything is going great,” Lucic said. “I’m just happy to be back in Boston right now. I can’t wait until Sept. 17 rolls around when camp starts.”

A healthy Lucic and the newly-acquired Nathan Horton may provide the L1 wing punch for the Bruins this season. If Lucic doesn’t have to worry about fighting off nagging injuries, he’ll be more likely to post the sort of helpful point/ PIM total of which he’s capable. He was limited to only 9-11-20 last year in 50 GP and was often pushed down in the line-up because he wasn’t as effective as normal after that ankle sprain. We did see him produce 5-4-9 in 13 playoff GP with 19 PIM and 24 SOG, which is a pretty nice pace.

He’s excited for this season for a number of reasons.

“I think we have a great team heading into next year,” Lucic told The Herald. “We got a lot of great players coming in, and we just have to find some chemistry and find a way to put it together.”

Tyler Seguin, who agreed to terms with the team on his entry level deal today, will be of particular interest for the winger.

“I can’t wait to see this new guy Seguin and see how he is,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot about him and how good he is, so I’m just interested to see him in camp and excited to see what he can bring to the team.”

BOOTH SYMPTOM-FREE
The Florida Sun-Sentinel indicates that Panthers winger David Booth said Monday he hasn’t had any post- concussion symptoms since May, has been training hard off-ice the past two months and will soon start rigorous skating with his personal coach in Michigan.

“It always takes a couple of weeks to get back into it,” said Booth, who usually doesn’t skate until August anyway so that he can remain fresh in the off-season. “I’m just going to pace myself and make sure I don’t overdo it too soon.”

The article notes that with four months to recover, during which he and a friend went on a 10-day trip to New Zealand to hunt red stag with bows and arrows, Booth is refreshed and raring to go — even though camp is still another six weeks away.

“Definitely I want to prove I’m one of the better players in the league,” he said. “I believe that and I’ve got to prove that. You can’t look back on what’s happened in the past. That doesn’t mean anything now. You’ve got to come ready to keep your spot on the team and be a leader on the team.”

NO NIEMI IN PHILLY
The Ottawa Sun speculates that Antti Niemi won’t be out of work long. He was given his walking papers by the Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks after an arbitrator-awarded ruling of $2.75M came down on a one-year deal. Veteran Marty Turco was brought in to be the number one goalie for ’10-11.

The Sun writes that the San Jose Sharks as looking for a replacement for veteran Evgeni Nabokov, while the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals also need help in net… and that all three will likely look at Niemi.

That discounts the fact that the Sharks seemed quite happy to have signed Antero Niittymaki as their low-cost starter after allowing Evgeni Nabokov to leave as an unrestricted free agent. Thomas Greiss will likely reprise his role as the team’s back-up.

The Caps have already stated their intention to roll with Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth between the pipes this coming season. They’re young goalies with loads of potential and the team, rightfully IMO, believes strongly that they’re ready for prime time. Worst-case, there will be veterans available via trade in-season if necessary.

Philly.com reports that the Flyers do not have any interest in Niemi. GM Paul Holmgren said as much Monday and he’s apparently happy with Michael Leighton , Brian Boucher and Johan Backlund; three goalies expected to battle for the top spot during training camp. Leighton and Boucher will likely be the tandem heading forward. The team is about $327,000 under the $59.4M salary cap.

QUOTABLE
“There’s so many ways to bring a physical presence to the game,” D.J. King told The Washington Post of how he can be more than just a fighter for his new Capitals teammates. “Getting in hard on the forecheck, getting in the faces of other players and getting under their skin talking to them. But I’ve always tried to log minutes down in the other team’s offensive zone, to wear their D-men down with a good cycle game with my big body, just protecting the puck in the corners. That way when Alex (Ovechkin) and the other guys get on the ice the other team’s D are tired and they can do their thing.”

SUTTON TO SO CAL
The Anaheim Ducks have signed Andy Sutton to a two-year, $4.25M contract with an annual cap hit of $2.125M.

The 35-year Kingston, Ontario native posted 5-8-13 over 72 GP last season the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators, but the Orange County Register indicates it is his physical play and shot-blocking ability that is attractive to the Ducks; who desperately needed someone with those strengths on the back end.

Since the trade deadline in March, Ducks GM Bob Murray has done a major overhaul of his blue line as he has shipped out Ryan Whitney, Steve Eminger and James Wisniewski and has brought in Lubomir Visnovsky, Toni Lydman and now Sutton. Scott Niedermayer retired in June and is now a consultant with the team.

Sutton doesn’t tend to carry much fantasy value aside from depth PIM and occasional points. The poolie plus with this signing is that Jonas Hiller owners, who have likely been eyeing Anaheim’s depleted D with worry in recent months, can breathe at least a little easier now. Sutton’s a good guy to have patrolling the back end for any team and that’s a fair price for his services in today’s market.

MODANO TO WING IT
Mike Modano will continue his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings after he signs a one-year deal later this week.

The Detroit Free Press, based on late-June comments from coach Mike Babcock, reminds us of the projected line combos – at least to begin with in ’10-11. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk will play together with Tomas Holmstrom as their usual support. He indicated at the time he wants the two studs to be able to feed off each other and regain that star offensive form. The second line will be Valtteri Filppula with Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi. Modano now will play with Danny Cleary and Jiri Hudler.

Modano came up with 14-16-30 in 59 GP last season in a varied role with the Stars (wing and centre on a number of different units, although generally pretty deep in the line-up), but it’s really not too unreasonable to expect that the 40-year old can produce somewhere in the range of another 40+point campaign.

It’s true that the Wings only had six players who ended up with 40+points last season. Last year was an aberration for this team on so many levels though and one that won’t likely be repeated this time around. In ’08-9 the Wings had 11 players who registered at least 40 points (and another with 37) and that was a season where Hudler, Filppula and Mikael Samuelsson were generally the third line. That’s depth.

Detroit will boast a similarly-talented trio on that third line this year (regardless of how the lines change during the season) and that’ll mean a good chance for a high number of 40+point players; even without Marian Hossa present, as was the case for that deep ’08-9 roster.

It always comes down to health as a major factor for any player; but Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Lidstrom , Rafalski and Kronwall will be all but automatic there. Filppula would have to fall on his face to miss that mark over a full season on the second line with quality linemates. Bertuzzi barely cleared that bar in ’09-10 (44 points), but the 35-year old should be able to challenge the mark again. Aside from his 15-game ’06-7 campaign, Bert hasn’t missed that plateau in more than a decade.

Hudler, hungry after his KHL stint, shouldn’t have too much of an issue producing at least 40; even if he’s relegated to third line duty. Modano and Cleary may or may not actually hit 40, but history and their present circumstances indicate they’ll at least seriously be in the running. Holmstrom should flirt with 40 again too because he’s still willing to pay the price in front of the net at the age of 37 and he should generally have prime offensive opportunities for another season. He’s always good for a few hot streaks for poolies each season too, even though his overall point totals still classify him in the depth winger category.

QUOTABLE
“It’s tough, that’s the way it is; but I think if you think about it too much, it’s only going to haunt you,” Hawks winger Patrick Kane told The Chicago Tribune over the weekend. “Sometimes you just have to drop it and move on and get ready for next season. … “Hockey is a business and some moves had to be made. It’s the way things go.”

MUELLER, STEWART STILL RFAS
Chris Stewart and Peter Mueller remain unsigned RFAs and a recent Denver Post interview with Mueller’s agent, Anton Thun, indicates that it’s a process – but one that should be finished before camp.

“What’s happening is that there is a marketplace that’s evolving. Some of them are evolving from arbitration awards. Some of them are evolving from other signings. The whole marketplace is being very cautious in terms of committing too soon. I think that’s normal.”

He added, “I would expect him to be in camp. I don’t anticipate him not being in camp. That’s not part of our game plan and I don’t believe it’s part of Colorado’s game plan. I could be wrong, but that’s not part of anyone’s plan.”

The big question for the organization, naturally, is how much are they each worth?

Stewart broke out a fantastic 28-36-64 campaign in 77 GP, including poolie-friendly totals in standard leagues of 73 PIM and 221 SOG. It was his sophomore season after tallying 11-9-19 in 53 GP the season prior. Can the 18th overall pick in 2006 repeat this sort of success that earned him a regular first line role?

Mueller, the eighth overall pick from the same draft as Stewart, began his NHL career in Phoenix with a bang. He recorded 22-32-54 in 81 GP. He struggled the following year and then hadn’t done much this past season either before being dealt to Colorado in the Wojtek Wolski swap. Mueller sprang to life with his new team and quickly became a valuable fantasy addition in the process, exploding for 9-11-20 in 15 GP.

A late-season concussion after being smashed into the boards by Rob Blake cost Mueller the final week of action and the playoffs. The youngster had just produced his third two-goal game with the Avs that night and he had seven multi-point efforts in his 15 starts, including points in his first seven outings alone.

The Post article notes that the negotiating will involve to what extent the Avs can have faith that Stewart’s single productive year foreshadowed work to come and that Colorado saw the real Mueller in the final weeks of the regular season.

GM Greg Sherman will be mindful that every contract is a benchmark for others as the organization’s young core matures, but Colorado also needs to commit tons of money to get to the salary cap floor.

QUOTABLE
“I have some ideas I’m thinking of,” Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel told The Post-Dispatch in terms of how his defensive pairings might look for ’10-11, “but I’ll have to get a feel for what’s best and that’s what we’ll use the early part of training camp and the exhibition games to find out.

“Do you want a shutdown pair and an offensive pair, or do you want three pairs with equal parts of both? We just don’t know yet how it’s going to look back there.”

Need help deciding on keeper choices for ’10-11? Wondering about someone’s poolie potential after summer moves by the team? The next fantasy Q&A will be coming up before too long, so drop a line to chris.nichols@sportsnet.rogers.com and it may be included.

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