WILMINGTON — In the spring of 2011, Milan Lucic was the toast of Boston.
As the Bruins made their run to the Stanley Cup, Lucic was one of the faces of the franchise because of his fierce play on the ice and his effervescent personality off it.
During the 2010-11 season, he scored a career-high 30 goals and added 32 assists.
This year, playing a lockout-shortened schedule, Lucic has been a shell of his former self. Heading into Friday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden, Lucic has just six goals in 41 games. He has just two in the last 27. He played only 10 minutes, 53 seconds against Buffalo Wednesday, his second-lowest ice time this season. And he has been yanked off the power play.
He is struggling mightily, and at practice Thursday at Ristuccia Arena, all signs pointed to Lucic being a healthy scratch Friday. He seemed resigned to the possibility and said he wouldn’t harbor any anger at coach Claude Julien.
“I wouldn’t blame anyone but myself,’’ said Lucic. “If that’s what needs to be done in order to get myself going, then I’m most for what’s best for the team and not best for myself.
“I want to be a part of the team, I want to be better, I want to contribute. I know I can be a big part of the team. Ultimately, it all comes down to myself.”
Julien wasn’t 100 percent sure Lucic would sit. He also isn’t sure what the problem is.
“If I knew, I’d certainly correct it,’’ said the coach. “We’ve tried different things. Right now, he doesn’t seem to be as emotionally engaged. Whether it’s confidence, whether there are issues, I don’t know, I really don’t know.
“We know what he is capable of doing. Somehow we’ve got to hope that he finds that.”
When asked if he thought time off might be beneficial, Lucic wasn’t sure.
“We’ll see,’’ he said. “Time will tell.
“I think, right now, it’s just getting that hunger and emotion back in the game and trying to figure out how to play with it again to where it was and where it can be at such a high level. If I figure that out, everything else will take care of itself.
“It’s been a frustrating year. You want to be better, you’ve got to be better, and I’ve just got to do my best to try to work through this.
“You’ve got to find ways and find little things to try to work your way through it. It’s definitely not going to be easy. You’ve got to get over the mental hump.
“Right now, that’s where it’s at. You’ve just got to get over the thinking process of thinking negatively and try to think positively and hopefully it can turn things around.’’
If Lucic’s confidence was sky-high in 2010-11, it now seems to be as low as it can go.
“It’s not where it was two years ago or last year,’’ said Lucic. “It’s almost back to where I was at Year 3, where things are just not going the way you want them to go.
“Enough of the excuses. You can’t just keep making excuses and saying all these things and pointing fingers and stuff like that. You’ve got to try to work yourself through it.
“It’s times like this, if you get through it, that kind of makes you stronger as a person and as a player. You want to try to get through it to try to make you stronger because you want to contribute for your team, you want to contribute for your teammates. You want to contribute for the fans and the city.
“For myself, I’ve taken pride in trying to be a big part of this team. Right now, it [stinks] because you haven’t had that same effect that you know you can bring.”
Julien said it has been hard to watch Lucic having such a difficult time. The coaching staff has attempted to steer him back to what made him successful, to no avail.
“I don’t know what it is, but we all know he’s struggling right now,’’ said Julien. “We’ve had our chats about his game for a while now. He’s really trying to turn the corner but doesn’t seem to be able to. So, as a coach, you’re trying to help him through that stuff.
“A big portion of it is going to have to come from him, obviously. We can support him and give him opportunities, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to step up there, and he knows he’s not.”Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.