Bergeron regaining form

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

BOSTON -- For public consumption anyway, Patrice Bergeron has stopped rewinding the tape on a 2007-08 season he'd rather forget (and who knows, one he might not be able to remember much of anyway.)

All questions about the savage smash into the boards by Randy Jones of the Philadelphia Flyers a year ago next week are off limits for the 23-year-old Bruins centre.

The images won't fade so easily, however.

Just 10 games into what many expected to be a breakthrough season for one of the game's young talents, Bergeron was laid out on the ice for several frightening moments. The resulting concussion refused to heal quickly and kept the Quebec native out of the remainder of the campaign, including the Bruins' unlikely rise to the playoffs.

The fear among some in Beantown was that he might never regain his form.

But with Bergeron determined to look forward, even the possible return of notorious rear-ender Ryan Hollweg to the Leafs lineup for tonight's clash at the TD Banknorth Garden shouldn't be much of a worry.

Instead, Bergeron is working hard at restoring the promise he had shown earlier in his career, specifically three seasons ago when he counted 31 goals and 42 assists.

After what for him was an emotional Bruins home opener on Monday -- his first regular-season return to the ice at the scene of the crime -- Bergeron answered the questions about the hit one final time. And with, in his words, "no more firsts" to the timeline of his comeback, he resolved to look ahead.

"I feel a lot better each game," Bergeron said yesterday after taking part in an optional offday skate in suburban Wilmington. "I knew I would need time to get my rhythm and timing back.

"It has taken time getting used to everything. My position on the ice, defensive play and creating chances. But I think the main thing is getting used to the speed."

Like the Bruins in general, statistically Bergeron has been a little slow to come around. Through six games, he has five assists but has yet to score a goal.

Bruins coach Claude Julien isn't alarmed, however, convinced that the aftermath of the injury won't hamper his return to the NHL elite.

"He's as important as any key guy in the league," Julien said. "He's very demanding of himself. But to me, there is no hesitation on his play."

As the young season continues to evolve, Bergeron will be one of the most-watched players from a number of constituencies.

In Boston, his No. 37 jersey is hard to miss in the Garden as, fuelled by his big '05-'06 campaign, he replaced Joe Thornton as the star power face of a franchise in need of one.

Around the league, many will be curious to see if Bergeron can help accelerate the revival of the Bruins, a team that made a nice climb from 14th to eighth in the Eastern Conference.

And finally, as Vancouver 2010 nears, Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman will no doubt be evaluating Bergeron among a number of talented prospects at centre.

"It's always an honour to play for your country," said Bergeron, acknowledging he would love to be an Olympian. "I've had the chance to do it three times, but that's a while away, it's not until next year."

In fact, Bergeron has a unique international resume, with the quirky distinction of winning gold for Canada's senior team (2004) before winning gold for our junior squad (2005), the latter of which he was the tournament MVP and scoring leader.

For now, though, proving himself to be among the NHL elite is top priority. And so far, Bergeron has been made to feel at home, even during the Bruins' five road games in their first six starts.

"There has been a lot of support from family and friends, players I've played with in the past," Bergeron said.

"Also on the ice, a lot of players have been saying 'welcome back,' even linesmen and referees.

"It's been great, it means a lot to me. I'm very happy to be back."


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