Bruins

Bergeron happy to be back at full strength after injury was 'in my head a bit'

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Bergeron happy to be back at full strength after injury was 'in my head a bit'

Now that it’s all over, Patrice Bergeron will let on that last season was more than a little bit of a character-testing slog for the always dependable center. 

The 32-year-old Bergeron battled ankle and sports hernia woes for the entirety of last season and, partially because of that, endured an uncharacteristically sluggish start to his season. Boston’s franchise player bounced back in the second half of the year to be closer to his normal, fully healthy self, but came up noticeably short of his usual full season numbers with 21 goals, 53 points and a plus-12 in 79 gritty games played. Bergeron was ultimately rewarded for gutting it out with a B’s playoff berth for the first time in three seasons, and then later recognized with an NHL record-tying fourth Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. 

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So it was all worth it in the end, and now he’s approaching his normal levels after offseason surgery to repair the sports hernia. 

Bergeron is taking it easy in captain’s practices while continuing rehab for last spring’s surgery, but all systems are go for him to be ready at the start of the regular season. Better than that, Bergeron is enthusiastic about this season’s prospects knowing he won’t have the mentally taxing burden of an injury weighing him down through the entire year. 

As Bergeron tells it, the annoyingly nagging injury played into his slow first half before he adjusted to a reduced skating burst as a result of the sports hernia. It was noticeable at times that Bergeron simply couldn’t explode past opponents as he’d routinely done in the past, and he struggled to get to the right spots in the offensive zone in time to make a play. 

“It’s mostly just not having any pain, and being able to skate and have a full stride. It’s not having to think about it, and not having to need the muscle to warm up for 15 or 20 minutes before I was ready,” said Bergeron, who managed just 11 goals and 24 points in his first 49 games before finishing strong with nine goals and 28 points in 29 games following NHL All-Star weekend. “It was mostly pain, so [being healthy] is definitely going to help my skating. The one thing that was difficult was that you knew it was always there, and it was annoying. It was one of those things where you have to battle through it and then the next day you knew it was still going to be there. 

“It was hard that way and it was in my head a little bit. Once I got past that hurdle of realizing it was going to be there, and not worrying about it, I felt better. It’s not an excuse for the slow start I had and not scoring on some easy chances, but it was slowing me down a bit. It was definitely annoying. Once I passed the hurdle of knowing that my skating was going to be restricted, I felt better confidence-wise and whatnot. I stopped second-guessing everything that I was doing on the ice.”

It’s clearly good news that Bergeron enters the season with a clean bill of health and without a World Cup of Hockey interrupting his normal preparation for the season. That should help push him back upward toward the player that averaged 28 goals and 62 points over the previous three seasons while forming one of the NHL’s most dangerous tandems with Brad Marchand. That’s absolutely what No. 37 is aiming for as the best all-around player on Boston’s roster, and one of the heart-and-soul leaders of a B’s hockey club again pointed upward. 

“I’m still doing some rehab, but I’ll be ready for camp. There may be some restrictions there [in camp], but I feel good on the ice and good in the gym,” said Bergeron. “Hopefully I’m going to have a better start, and just get back to playing a better game two-ways. You always want to push your limits and be better. I guess that’s always my approach.”

It should also be expected that Bergeron – at 32 years old with 899 regular season games on his career resume – is going to begin dealing with more of the nagging injuries moving forward in his NHL career. Bergeron will play through it all, of course. 

That’s what he does and he proved just how extreme that renowned toughness can be when he played through a punctured lung during the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks. Nobody is looking for a repeat of that ever again, but it will be nice for Bruins fans to see Bergeron back to full strength mentally and physically when the puck drops a month from now.  

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Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

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Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

BRIGHTON -- While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the medical staff, the Bruins aren’t ruling out a return from David Backes for Thursday night’s game vs. the Vancouver Canucks.

Both Backes and Patrice Bergeron returned to Bruins practice with the rest of their teammates on Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but it was only the 33-year-old Backes that practiced fully without any limitations.

“He skated a little while we were away and a full practice today, so we’ll consult with the medical staff going forward with his plan,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Potentially he could be an option for Thursday, and I think that should sort itself out in the next couple of days. We’re no different than anybody else, right? We’d like to have our full complement, and some of the guys we’re missing are glue guys that could really add that element to some of the kinds of games that got away from us.”

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After the team practice, Backes said that he’s been skating for the last four days and that he’s lost about 10 pounds over the last couple of weeks while adjusting to the medication and dietary treatments for diverticulitis. It wasn’t a complete shock to Backes given some of his family medical history, but he wasn’t expecting anything like that to hit him in the prime of his professional athletic career at just 34 years old.

“I have a family history of it, but this is kind of unfortunate timing and unfortunate circumstances. Hopefully I take care of this, get it behind me and not have to ever think about it again,” said Backes. “The first couple of days it was tough to just stand up straight or do anything, and then you’re on a ‘no exercise’ regimen for six or seven days. So progress . . . certainly. A return . . . we’ll see. Long-term prognosis we’ll have to discuss with the really smart guys.

“You don’t have much appetite, to deal with pain you take a painkiller and then that slows down digestion and just makes it even worse. So you’re stuck there…and it really drains your energy. I was on a liquid diet there for a few days and lost about 10 pounds. I don’t suggest that as a crash diet for anybody.”

He’s come a long way from being stuck in a Mass General hospital bed during Bruins opening night against the Nashville Predators, and Backes is hoping he’ll be all the way back to playing sooner rather than later. The Bruins right winger skated in a third line spot with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller on Tuesday, and said he’s actually even consulted a bit with former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light, who battled his own stomach issues with Crohn’s Disease during his NFL career.

“I was like a kid in a candy store before practice. You have that carrot of Game 1 dangled in front of you and then taken away, and finally you’re back with the guys on the ice after they’ve been gone a week. Knowing what the results have been you want to interject a little energy out there while knowing that we’ve got 77 games left to establish ourselves, and find our game,” said Backes. “I felt good out there and it was nice to be back on the ice. I was smiling most of the day knowing that I’ll hopefully be playing some ice hockey in the future.

“We’re working to get that strength back and to return me to a productive member of this hockey team, which is going to be on the upswing here shortly. It’s not just due to me, but because guys are putting work in as a group. I’m trying to be as educated about it as I can, so I can be available as often as possible and as productive as possible when I am available.”

There are medical hurdles that need to be traversed by Backes before he can return, but once it becomes a matter of toughness and grit then he’ll be suiting up again for the Black and Gold, and that moment might be coming soon.

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.

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That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.