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Julien on Lucic: ‘He’s been arguably our best forward’

May 8, 2013, 3:39 PM EDT

luciccelebratesap AP

Milan Lucic is making up for a disappointing regular season.

Just as his head coach.

On Wednesday, Claude Julien praised the power forward, saying he’s been one of Boston’s most effective players in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal against Toronto.

“[Lucic’s] been arguably our best forward,” Julien told CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty. “It’s obvious he’s feeling better about himself now than he did all year.”

The 24-year-old forward had a tough campaign, recording just seven goals in 46 games. Over an 82-game season, that works out to around 12 goals — Lucic scored 26 last season, and 30 the year before.

His struggles culminated with a mid-April stretch when he openly criticized his own play, then was made a healthy scratch for the first time since his rookie season of 2007-08.

“There are no excuses and there’s nobody to blame but myself,” he said at the time. “I know I can still be a big part of this team and it all comes down to me.”

In the playoffs, though, Lucic has been a totally different player.

He’s tied with Jarome Iginla and Evgeni Malkin for the NHL’s assist lead, with six, and is a plus-5 while averaging 16:28 TOI per game.

Lucic has also rediscovered his physical game, leading all Bruins forwards with 11 hits.

For Julien, it’s a relief to see the old Lucic back.

“It has been a frustrating year for him and frustrating for us as well, not seeing Milan be Milan,” Julien told NHL.com. “Once he found his game and his groove, I think it’s pretty obvious to everyone how big a factor he is for our hockey club.”

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