Bruins

Bergeron, Kesler at the center of the battle

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Bergeron, Kesler at the center of the battle

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER Patrice Bergeron has plenty to play for heading into Wednesday nights Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The 25-year-old center is back where he helped Team Canada capture the Gold Medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and back in that winning feeling. The city of Vancouver will always remind Bergeron of that joyous experience, which ended with an overtime victory over the United States, and theres a special feeling thats difficult for him to explain when he steps footinto the Rogers Center.

Those memories I'll never forget, said Bergeron, who also ownsa World Junior Championship ona hockey resume that rivals Charlie Sheen for winning. Obviously having a chance to win a gold medal on Canadian soil in Vancouver was something special. Obviously it's some memories and, like I said, I'll never forget. It's fun to come back here.

At the same time, we have a job to do. It's about making sure we concentrate on Game 1, and don't worry about anything else. For me it's about just going out there and playing my game.

There are other things that should be getting Bergerons engine even more revved up than past glory in Vancouver, however. Opposing center Ryan Kesler is a player with whom Bergeron is often grouped when it comes to categorizing elite centers. Both are up for the Selke Trophy, given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game, but Bergeron will likely lose the award to Kesler when the final votes are tabulated in Las Vegas. There's no doubt that's on his mind with a unique opportunity to change minds of everyone on the national stage with a strong performance in the Finals.

I think he's a great two-way forward, said Bergeron of Kesler. He's a great player. To be compared to him is nice. At the same time, I'll try to be myself. I'm not even worrying about the comparison. To me, it's about going out there, playing my game.

That being said, he does play a two-way game. He brings a lot to the table . . . Great player.

Its no secret Bergeron values the Selke Trophy, and hes performed well in showdowns with fellow Selke favorites. Bergeron badly outplayed Chicago's Jonathan Toews in late March, and finished with an assist, a plus-2 and seven shots on net in 20:36 of ice time while shutting down Toews and Co. all evening long in a Bruins shutout victory at TD Garden. There was a bit of an attitude in Bergeron's game during that 60 minutes against Chicago, and there's little doubt the Bergie fireshould also be there against Vancouver.

That kind of unending effort should be expected against Kesler, and many of Bergerons teammates are viewing their one-on-one battle as one of the key matchups in the series. He'll need everything he can muster in a battle against his Vancouver mirror image over the next two weeks.

That should be a battle, said Zdeno Chara. Patrice is a guy that always gives everything he has, does such a great job on the faceoff circle and always gives the team everything he has. Kesler brings a lot of same things to the table. That will be something Bergeron will really use as a challenge."

Coach Claude Julien spoke about the BergeronKesler matchup but didnt delve into details of their anticipatedhead-to-head battles, given the B'splan appears to beBergeron matchingup against the Sedin twins to start the series. Still, its hard to imagine the two wont be clashing on big faceoff draws once the Finals get going in earnest.

I have a feeling that Kesler is not going to necessarily be looking at Bergeron much unless it's those big faceoffs at key times," said Julien. "Somehow I have the feeling that both coaches will probably look for something else. If it isn't, then so be it.

But I think when you look at those two players, what they bring to their team are very similar. Patrice has done everything for our team that Kesler has done for his. There's no doubt that you have two players here that are key to their team, guys that you can use in all kinds of situations. For us, it's keying on Patrice being as good as he can be. As I mentioned before, it will be interesting to see the difference between those two, what they bring to the game in these finals.

Both players are known for their strength, both mentally and physically, and their heaviness on the puck. Kesler had little tosay during Tuesday's media day in Vancouver, and seemed more about doing his talking on the ice.

"You know what, for me, I just focus on what I do well . . . and make them adjust, said Kesler. I have a couple things that work. I'm going to try 'em and see what works against 'em.

Kesler has 18 points in the playoffs and Bergeron has 15 points in 16 games. Bergeron is leading the field in faceoff percentage, winning 62.3 percent of his draws to Keslers 54.7 percent.

Both players are so important to their teams, its no stretch to say that whichever one of the two becomes the more dominant physical factor both offensively and defensively will be guiding their team to Stanley Cup victory.

If the Olympic results of last winter hold true again in the Finals for Bergeron, he'll be leaving Vancouver with a familiar winning feeling. And Kesler will be left feeling . . . well . . . something else again.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: Not all smooth sailing for top picks

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Morning Skate: Not all smooth sailing for top picks

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the return of Adolfo to Toucher and Rich this morning.

*Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid have received plenty of acclaim over the past couple of years as talented, young stars in the league, but Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien details how things haven’t gone ideally for either of those youngsters, or their teams, this season. Clearly, it’s not at this level yet, but just think about the hype behind Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin when they were drafted 1-2 back in 2010, and what they have, and haven’t, been able to accomplish in the league since that time.

*Outstanding rookie Brock Boeser credits a conversation with Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green for helping spark his game this season.

*Good video piece on the near miss of Wayne Gretzky almost playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs after dominating them in the playoffs.  

*Salivating for some hockey trades? The 10 potential NHL trade deadline targets around the league as we wait for players to become available for trade later in the season.  

*Hockeybuzz is asking what the NHL, and more specifically the Hockey Hall of Fame, has against goaltenders?

*For something completely different: A great piece from Drew Bledsoe on the tragic passing of former Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn, and how his death came just as he seemed to be putting all the pieces of his life together.

 

Marchand, Krug and Backes all practice, won't play vs. Devils

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Marchand, Krug and Backes all practice, won't play vs. Devils

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins are getting closer to a healthier lineup, but it won’t be in time for the Thanksgiving Eve road tilt against the upstart New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.

Brad Marchand (upper body), Torey Krug (upper body) and David Backes (colon surgery) all skated in red no-contact jerseys at practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena, so none of those three banged-up B’s will be making the trip to Jersey. Anders Bjork (upper body) didn’t practice and is obviously out vs. the Devils as well, but Ryan Spooner might be a possibility after making it through his first full practice since tearing his groin almost six weeks ago.

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If he can make it through Wednesday's morning skate without any problems, Spooner will likely be a game-time decision against the Devils after missing the past 14 games.  

The Bruins have continued to indicate that Marchand is in the concussion protocol, though it appears the Bruins agitator is dealing with both upper body and lower body issues. Marchand was encouraged by the progress he’s making while returning to practice, so perhaps the B’s could get back one of their leading scorers sooner rather than later.

“I feel pretty good. It’s good to be back with the guys and feel like you’re a part of the team,” said Marchand, who has missed five of the past seven games after returning for the home-and-home against the Maple Leafs. “It’s frustrating whenever you miss games and you miss time away from the team, but they had a great road trip and they’re playing well. It would be nice to be back in the lineup consistently and be back with the team...it’ll come.”

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Devils based on practice Tuesday:

Heinen-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Cehlarik

Vatrano-Spooner-Nash/Szwarz

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

Beleskey-Marchand-Backes

 
Chara-McAvoy

O’Gara/Postma-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Miller

 
Rask

Khudobin