Bruins notebook

Bergeron happy to be in thick of things

Marc Savard, who had two assists, could have used some help as he got decked by the Senators' Filip Kuba. Marc Savard, who had two assists, could have used some help as he got decked by the Senators' Filip Kuba. (Sean Kilpatrick/Associated Press)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 8, 2009
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OTTAWA - Just over a year ago, Patrice Bergeron was on hand at Scotiabank Place to watch his Bruins teammates fight to a 2-1 win over the Senators, qualifying for the postseason with the victory.

"I was in a zone where I had no clue whether I could play or not," Bergeron recalled. "But I was just cheering the guys so much."

A year later, Bergeron is no cheerleader. He is centering a line between Mark Recchi and Chuck Kobasew that has been the club's best all-around threesome in the last two weeks. They have created scoring chances. They have drawn assignments to check opposing top lines. They have played rough-and-tumble hockey, sparked by Bergeron's play.

"Bergy's done really well lately," said Kobasew. "It's been fun as a line."

And the line didn't even exist at this time last season. Recchi was in his last days in Atlanta, playing for his next contract. Kobasew was on crutches, his season ended on March 25 when he was dropped by a Zdeno Chara slap shot that broke his left tibia. And Bergeron, while back around the team, was not close to returning from a concussion.

"It's a fun time of the year," said Kobasew, who might have been available for playoff duty last season had the Bruins advanced past the Canadiens. "So not to be playing, it's a tough time to have an injury. But the young guys really stepped up."

For Bergeron, improving his mental well-being last year was just as important as getting his physical condition back. Last season's playoff-clinching win over the Senators was the fifth road game Bergeron had seen in person. Just a few weeks earlier, Bergeron had been given the green light to travel with the team and participate in morning skates.

"It was a great feeling to get back with the guys," said Bergeron. "I was on the road again and able to skate in the morning skates. It was a great feeling. It was a great relief."

Now having Bergeron and his mates tuned up for the playoffs gives the Bruins considerably more depth than they had last year. Besides the absences of Bergeron and Kobasew, Marc Savard, sidelined with a broken bone in his back, didn't appear in the final seven games of the regular season. In Game 1 of the first round, Savard was limited to 14:56 of ice time in a 4-1 loss to the Canadiens.

This time around, coach Claude Julien can deploy Bergeron's line against anybody. While Kobasew has more speed than Recchi, both players hurtle after pucks and aren't afraid of entering the lose-your-teeth real estate to create plays.

Bergeron, who has jacked up his physical play lately, has been focusing on getting pucks out of the defensive zone, springing his teammates, and using his creativity.

"They've been great," said Julien. "Bergy's really found his game in the last month and a half."

Ference is down
Andrew Ference, who suffered an undisclosed injury against the Rangers Saturday, will not play for the rest of the regular season. Julien said Ference will be reevaluated prior to the playoffs. Ference appeared in 47 games this season, collecting one goal and 15 assists. He sat out 31 games because of a fractured right tibia . . . With 112 points, the Bruins are 5 behind league-best San Jose, which defeated Colorado, 1-0, in a shootout last night. They still have an outside chance at finishing with the NHL's top record and winning the President's Trophy for the first time since 1989-90. But Julien, citing San Jose's schedule (two games against non-playoff opponents), said the milestone is not the team's priority. "We're certainly not going to put all our eggs in one basket and push for that," Julien said. "If it doesn't happen, it's not the end of the world. We want to focus on something that's much bigger than that. Hopefully, we can go out and push for a bigger prize."

Thornton back in
Shawn Thornton, out for the last three games with an undisclosed injury, saw 7:23 of action in his return. Thornton landed three shots, threw one hit, and recorded one takeaway . . . With Ference and P.J. Axelsson out, Stephane Yelle was the second alternate captain . . . The Bruins went 1 for 5 on the power play. Ference and Dennis Wideman, the point men on the No. 1 unit, were replaced by Chara and Bergeron . . . The Senators, who had qualified for the playoffs for 11 straight seasons, plan on finishing strong despite being shut out of the postseason. "For us, it means a lot," coach Cory Clouston said.

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