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Milan Lucic debated retirement after slow start to season with Flames

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 08: Milan Lucic #17 of the Calgary Flames skates with the puck in NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on February 8, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Milan Lucic has struggled at times to find his footing as a member of the Calgary Flames, and the challenges have been daunting enough that the 31-year-old said he entertained notions of retirement early in the season.

As a guest on Hockey Night in Canada’s After Hours with Scott Oake and Louie DeBrusk, Lucic revealed that an early season benching made him question his place in the game.

“I think after about six, seven weeks into the season, I remember the first time we played St. Louis here on a Hockey Night in Canada game, I got benched in the third period and nothing was said to me by anyone and I wasn’t really happy it,” Lucic said in the interview. “I even started questioning whether I should just hang ’em up because it just wasn’t fun for me anymore.”

That game — a Nov. 9 overtime loss to the Blues — saw Lucic play a little over nine minutes of ice time, with just two shifts in the third period. At that point in the season he had recorded only three assists, while James Neal, the man he had been traded by the Edmonton Oilers for, had already scored 12 goals.

Within a month of that game the Flames called up Dillon Dube, and he along with Lucic and Derek Ryan have formed one of the most reliable lines on the team. The team also made a change behind the bench, with Geoff Ward taking over for the displaced Bill Peters. Both changes have had a positive impact on Lucic’s place on the team.

“At the end of the day in saying all that I have to give a lot of credit to Geoff Ward, the other three coaches and all my teammates for sticking with me and keeping me motivated,” Lucic explained. “Especially Gio and Monahan, two guys that I’ve really been close with since I’ve come here. They’ve kept me going and they’ve managed to pump me up, and I talked about Dubes and what it’s meant to play with him and the life he’s given me. So yeah, I’m having fun again, especially playing for Wardo.”

Lucic’s play has picked up as the season has progressed, perhaps albeit with lowered expectation. He’s scored six goals and 16 points through 57 games with the club.

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