PITTSBURGH — It was clear back in August how much Milan Lucic wanted to make the team. He, obviously, already had his spot on the Bruins’ top line locked up. But after he participated in drills at Team Canada’s orientation camp, Lucic discussed how important it was to him to be in Sochi, Russia, in February for the Olympics.
And with his impressive start to the season — a continuation of his playoff dominance from last June — Lucic is making his case right in front of some of those Team Canada decision-makers in Claude Julien (assistant coach) and Peter Chiarelli (management team).
Plus, he’s doing his actual job: contributing to the Bruins at a time when the team needs him because of the inconsistency of other lines and the injury to Loui Eriksson.
“There’s definitely other motivations — I’m not going to lie, that’s definitely one of them,” Lucic said. “Just from being invited to the camp, you hear some rumors that it’s a possibility that you can be on that team. It’s definitely something I think you have to embrace and look forward to.
“So I’m just focusing on what I have to do and prepare and being a good player for the Boston Bruins and hopefully it’ll be good enough for Team Canada. If not, my mind-set is still going to be the same, be the best I can be for the Boston Bruins.”
Part of Lucic’s struggles in the regular season last year came, he has said, from putting too much pressure on himself in light of a new contract and escalating expectations. It would have been easy for those same concerns to weigh him down this year. But they haven’t.
“Sometimes it can motivate you in a good way, sometimes not so much,” Julien said. “Some players put too much pressure on themselves to perform well and they get away from the things that made them good players.
“In Looch’s case, I’ve said it before, he came into camp in great shape. I think he worked hard this summer. He wanted to build on his finish from last year. He’s done that. And I think if he continues to do that, he becomes a consideration for the Olympic team.”
Entering Wednesday’s game, Lucic was second on the team in points with 11. He had six goals in his first 10 games after scoring just seven in 46 games last season.
Wednesday night’s game marked the first timeJarome Iginla had played in Pittsburgh since his brief stint with the Penguins last season. It was the first time he’s returned to a city in which he previously played, though the more emotional return will come Dec. 10 when he goes back to Calgary.
“Up until that last series [against the Bruins], it was a great experience,” Iginla said. “It was different. I’d never really moved before. I’d never been through that.”
Iginla said it was fun to return to Pittsburgh — probably more so since he was on a two-game goal streak after not scoring in the first eight games of the season.
He has also realized, in coming to Boston, that he didn’t handle certain things as he should have when he went to the Penguins.
“You want to fit in, you don’t want to make any waves or whatever,” Iginla said. “I’d never been through it. You’re trying to help out but not step on any toes or anything like that. And it’s a learning process.
“I realized later and I realized partly through it that they also get you to be who you are and what you do. It’s a balance there.”
Tickets are still available for Thursday’s game against the Ducks, which means the Bruins’ 170-game sellout streak is in jeopardy . . . Going into Wednesday night, the Bruins had lost six straight regular-season games to Pittsburgh. They were 1-7-1 against Pittsburgh in their last nine regular-season meetings . . . The Penguins have won seven straight regular-season games against the Bruins . . . Carl Soderberg and Johnny Boychuk both finished at minus-2. Soderberg has not played well of late, and that continued on Wednesday. He had zero shots on net and just one hit. He has not been much of a factor since returning from an ankle injury that kept him out the first couple of weeks of the season . . . Patrice Bergeron led the team with five shots on net and he blocked two shots. He also won 13 of 20 faceoffs.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.