EL SEGUNDO, CA — Being the new kid in school is usually tough for any student. Indeed, after being uprooted from comfortable, familiar surroundings where you have established friendships, maybe even boyfriends or girlfriends, you are suddenly dropped into a new school in a new city or town where you are, almost literally, on a deserted island—you feel alone and isolated, having to fit in all over again.
Being the new kid in school is not all that unlike what a hockey player feels like, especially a veteran, when they move from one team to another, as Los Angeles Kings left wing Milan Lucic has done this season.
Lucic joined the Kings on June 26, 2015, when he was traded from the Boston Bruins, a team that he spent his entire eight-year National Hockey League career with before the trade—he won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.
Being the “new kid” wasn’t easy for Lucic.
“It was different,” he said. “It’s pretty tough, but it’s definitely different from when you’re a rookie. It’s much different, [as a veteran], because people expect certain things from you, on and off the ice, and it’s difficult.”
“I’m not going to lie,” he added. “I was a little nervous, because you want your new teammates to like you. You want to fit in as quickly as possible. You don’t want to come here and ruffle feathers and be a bad guy, so it was definitely nerve-wracking, and something I was a little unsure about.”
The change in routine didn’t help matters, either.
“The different part is getting used to a new system, the travel, getting down to Staples [Center] for a game day, the 7:30 PM [start time] versus 7:00 PM [in Boston],” he noted. “Managing the day has been different than the routine I was used to. But I feel like I’ve adjusted pretty well, and I’ve gotten things going in the right direction.”
Lucic is now playing on a line with the red-hot Jeff Carter and the white-hot Tyler Toffoli, a line that is scoring the vast majority of goals for the Kings through their first 15 games.
In those 15 games, Lucic has scored three goals and his contributed five assists for eight points, with a +2 plus/minus rating and 18 penalty minutes.
Although he is producing with Carter and Toffoli, and equally important, creating space for his line mates, Lucic began the season playing with center Anze Kopitar, but got off to a sluggish start.
“Coming in, I wish I had a better start, and that I could’ve helped the team out more,” he lamented. “When things started, I was excited to be here, and I wanted to start off with a great start. It didn’t really happen that way, but the good thing is that I was able to get things going in the right direction after a start like that.”
“I’m just trying to have fun with it,” he added. “Over-thinking things is never good. Once I stopped doing that, things became fun again, and they started getting easier. I’m still continuing to try to do that so I can get my game to where I ultimately want it to be.”
As they have in the past for other players, especially younger ones, who are new to the team, Lucic’s new teammates have worked to help him adjust and fit in.
“The good thing is that the hockey guys are great guys,” he noted. “This is definitely a great group of guys who have helped me, and have believed in me, as a veteran, and as someone they look up to, as a leader, so I could feel more comfortable and start playing the way I can.”
“Them welcoming me in the way they did and believing in me the way they have has helped me adjust and get things going in the right direction,” he added. “I just want to do what I can to contribute to the team’s success, on and off the ice, and have fun doing it.”
The family aspect of the Kings’ culture, which runs throughout the franchise, has played a significant role.
“I think that’s what made me want to be a part of it even more,” said Lucic. “It really is that family-type of feel, and I think that’s what has made it fun. That’s something I’ve really appreciated, and I feel fortunate to be a part of since I’ve gotten here.”
“Everyone’s [part of] a family here, from the general manager all the way down to the players, the trainers, and everyone,” added Lucic. “It’s a tight-knit group. I’m just really fortunate to be a part of it, and it’s a family you want to be a part of. It makes things easier and more fun, and when you’re winning, everything [gets] easier and more fun.”
Of course, playing with a center like Jeff Carter helps, too.
“His big body and his speed, the combination of the two is something that’s really hard to defend against,” Lucic noted. “Combining that with his ability to score makes him the player that he is. It’s been a lot of fun, getting the chance to play with him the last ten games, and to have some success with him, too. That makes things a lot more fun.”
“That combination of skill, speed and size makes him the player that he is, and such an effective player,” Lucic added. “It’s good to see him stepping up, playing the way that he has, and leading the charge in turning things around after the start that we had.”
“You can’t win with one premium center anymore. To have Kopitar and Carter as your one-two punch—[they’re] definitely one of the best in the league.”
While Lucic continues to work on fitting in, he also has a new challenge, as well—trying to keep up with his very speedy center, Jeff Carter.
“Just trying to keep up [is very tough],” Lucic emphasized. “When he gets going—he’s a hard guy to keep up with when he gets wheels rolling. But I’ve always enjoyed playing that fast-paced type of game that he plays. That’s one of the things. You’ve got to make sure your legs are ready when game time comes because he plays that high speed type of game.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings left wing Milan Lucic, shown here during a recent practice at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography.
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