BOSTON – There’s a procedure in the NHL for a player coming back from a concussion: The doctors put it off as long as necessary, and the coaches keep it quiet as long as possible.
So it was with Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron on Monday, when he returned for his first full practice since a May 6 concussion that kept him out of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Boston coach Claude Julien would not comment on Bergeron’s availability for Tuesday night’s second game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“We’re going through the protocol of what he has to go through,” Julien told reporters after the off-day practice. “There’s not much more to update you guys on except that I think, when he is ready to go, I think you guys will know it. It’s just something that you can’t predict how quickly, or how slow it’s going to be.
“You see him going through what you saw him going through, today’s skating. But that’s protocol, and right now, we’re not ready to make any comments because he’s just going through those stages.”
Bergeron, who has had one more limited workout, skated on his own on Monday with general manager Peter Chiarelli watching, and then took part in non-contact power play and penalty-killing drills with his teammates. Julien has said it is up to the doctors when Bergeron returns to play, and it won’t be until he is 100 per cent.
“You’ve seen him skate now for a few days and that’s pretty much it,” the coach said. “We don’t have much else to report because there isn’t much else to report in regards to him.”
Lightning coach Guy Boucher isn’t buying it.
“We prepared for him playing for the first game, so we’re preparing for him,” he said, comparing it to facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round with Sidney Crosby out. “We know how important he is to the team. He’s a great player. He’s a great individual. And that usually has a tendency to uplift your team in terms of confidence. … It changes a lot of things in terms of the way the game is going to develop.
“So we’re expecting him to be there for the opening faceoff. And if he’s not, which I highly doubt … I think he’s going to be there.”
Bergeron had consecutive 70-point seasons for the Bruins before a severe concussion that knocked him out just 10 games into 2007-08 and limited him to 64 games the following year. He had just returned to form this season, scoring 22 goals with 35 assists, and was Boston’s top playoff scorer with 12 points before he was hurt in the finale of the second-round sweep of Philadelphia on a hit by Claude Giroux.
Bergeron was out on Saturday night, when he was replaced by rookie Tyler Seguin; he scored his first career playoff goal.
On Monday, Seguin worked with the power-play unit in practice.
“I think it’s just about being ready, and I think that’s why they threw me out there this morning,” said Seguin, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft but had been scratched in each of the Bruins’ first 11 playoff games. “It’s the first time I’ve skated with the power play in over a month and a half. It’s definitely nice being out there, and moving the puck around and getting my feet wet.”
Julien would not say whether Seguin would go back to being a scratch if Bergeron returns, but the rookie was hoping for his teammate’s return anyway.
“Everyone feels good that he’s making great strides, and he looked pretty good out there to me. So it’s going to be great to have him back soon,” Seguin said. “I want to stay in the lineup and contribute, but I’m getting ready for anything. I’m staying prepared and try not to think about it too much. I want to focus on my game because whenever the opportunity arises, I want to be right there to capitalize on it.”
The Bruins are also without Marc Savard, who like Bergeron had been among the team’s top scorers when healthy. He has been out with a concussion since January—the second straight season he has missed time after a hit to the head.
“Obviously, those two players are very, very good—some of the best players in the league,” Lightning centre Nate Thompson said. “We’re preparing as if (Bergeron) is playing. It’s a shame if he can’t. Our league is better off with everyone out there.”