SUN Hockey Pool

Bergeron's return to form

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

A season ago, Marc-Andre Bergeron was on top of the world as the Edmonton Oilers were heading to the Stanley Cup final.

But something wasn't right. He wasn't feeling like himself. The confidence wasn't there.

Eventually Bergeron lost his spot in the lineup and watched as the Oilers fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.

This year, the confidence is back. It needs to be. Success on the back end is contingent on the play of the 26-year-old defenceman.

"I was talking to my dad a couple of days ago and he told me that I'm playing more like myself," Bergeron said. "Everybody knows what happened last year in the playoffs.

"I talk a lot with my dad, who has seen me play my whole life, and my uncle - the people that I trust. They know me and I was glad they were telling me that.

"I felt like I wasn't myself last year and this year I feel I'm playing more the way I should be playing."

INITIALLY WITH PRONGER

A year ago, Bergeron started the season paired up with Chris Pronger. Playing alongside the all-star defenceman, he logged big minutes and put up impressive offensive stats.

But with the arrival of Jaroslav Spacek midway through the season, Bergeron's minutes diminished along with his point total. In the end, Bergeron lost his job to Dick Tarnstrom.

This season, Pronger, Spacek and Tarnstrom are all gone and there's a bigger onus on Bergeron, especially on the power play.

"He's never going to replace Chris on the back end of the power play," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"He just has to play his game. It's not a case of Chris being gone and he has to fill those minutes.

"I've been really happy with his game defensively.

"I think he's getting to the point where he's sizing up the battle intellectually. He's not running at a guy that outweighs him by 30 or 40 pounds, trying to knock him off his skates and then finding himself on the outside looking in.

"Those decisions come with experience and he's starting to get that."

In his own end, Bergeron is calmer with the puck than he has been in the past.

The game seems to have slowed down for him and so far he's making the right plays in his own zone.

"I feel like I'm moving the puck better," Bergeron said. "I think my game is better this year than it was last year for sure.

"I feel more comfortable skating with the puck and trying new things.

"I feel like I'm playing more of my game, having more of the puck and not trying to get rid of it every time I touch it.

"I want to play like an offensive defenceman, like I'm supposed to."

NOW WITH GREENE

Partnered with Matt Greene, Bergeron's role is more defined this season. He'll provide the finesse while Greene brings the muscle.

So far it's worked well.

"It's great for me to know that he's the one going to be jumping into the plays," Greene said.

"I can't read that, I don't know when to jump in or anything else. To see him take that upon himself and let me stay back, I think it's great."


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