SUN Hockey Pool

Bigger things to talk about

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

Nobody talks about Marc-Andre Bergeron's height anymore.

His shot is a good conversation piece. So are his 25 minutes a game. His six goals are a decent talking point, as are his reliability and power play work.

But the fact he's almost a foot shorter than defence partner Chris Pronger?

Old news. Non-issue.

Bergeron's game overshadowed his stature a long time ago. Now, when you're writing Bergeron, you start with things like the 30:35 he played in Calgary when Pronger was hurt.

"I've overcome that (size question) so many times in my life that it's kind of getting funny,'' said Bergeron, who's gone from everyone's favourite underdog to a key member of Edmonton's defence in just 84 career NHL games.

"I think at the start me and my dad were the only ones who believed in me. Now I'm here and I'm just trying to stick with it. Obviously I'm a young defenceman and I want to prove myself - not only offensively, but defensively, being reliable.''

So far so good.

Last season the 5-10 blueliner wasn't even a full-time player until later in the year, and even then he was only out there 17 minutes a night. Now he's on the top unit with Pronger, getting reams of special teams time and sits one point back of Pronger in scoring by Oilers defencemen. His six goals equal the other five starting defencemen combined.

"I'm getting more mature,'' said the 25-year-old. "And playing with Chris helps.''

Anyone partnered with Pronger is going to get a lot of high profile ice, but it's not a privilege Craig MacTavish can give away lightly; Pronger needs someone who can complement him, not weigh him down. That's why the Alex Semenov experiment was over before it started.

Bergeron didn't exactly hit the ground running, either, but is clearly in his element now.

"From the start of the year he's obviously calmed down a bit and settled in,'' said Pronger, who sensed Bergeron was a little awestruck by the prospect of teaming up with a Norris and Hart trophy winner. "He was a little nervous, he felt he always had to get me the puck, look for me, things like that. You kind of just have to let the play come to you and he's starting to do that, stepping up, making the plays, playing well defensively and obviously using his shot.''

Bergeron admits feeling like Pronger's caddy in the early days of their partnership, but not anymore.

"Right now it's feeling more like he's just my defence partner,'' he said. "The only thing I know is that if I give the puck to him he's going to do something good with it.''

Pronger feels the same way about Bergeron, and, more importantly, so does MacTavish, whose allergy to young, unproven players is legendary.

"When I see the older guys who have his trust, it's fair, you have to prove yourself,'' said Bergeron, who spent part of his last NHL season in the minors.

"When you deserve it, if you deserve it, you're going to get it. I know I've got a lot more leash now, that if I make a bad play I'm not going to be sitting at the end of the bench all day - but I don't want to push that too far.

"I know where they want me to go and what they don't want me to do. I'm just trying to play within that.

"I'm not trying to do too much but at the same time I'm trying to make the right plays, and the more you do that the better you feel.''


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