WILMINGTON, Mass. — It’s only natural to look at the Boston Bruins’ schedule, see that they’re going to play Philadelphia for the first time this season tomorrow night and realize that it will also be center Patrice Bergeron’s first game against the Flyers since he suffered a Grade 3 concussion as a result of a hit from behind by Philly blueliner Randy Jones in Oct. 2007.
Bergeron, of course, missed the remainder of the season. And the Bruins, despite some more questionable physical play by the Flyers throughout the season series, won three of four games against Philly.
One day before he’ll be taking the Wachovia Center ice, Bergeron didn”t want to buy into the hype of his first match-up against the team and player that knocked him out of commission.
“It’s another game,” Bergeron said after practice today at Ristuccia Arena. “I think you guys make it a bigger deal than it is for me. I’m just going out there and playing my game.”
A lot has happened since the Jones hit on Bergeron. The Bruins made the playoffs last spring and emerged as the Eastern Conference’s best team this season. Philly advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last spring and, after a slow start to this season, has climbed into the Atlantic Divison race. And Jones has started to hit his stride after starting the season on injured reserve (although he missed the Flyers’ last game with the flu).
The league might even be finally cracking down on hits to the head. Although suspensions earlier this season were similar to the slap on the wrist (two games) Jones received for his hit on Bergeron, the NHL this week slapped Los Angeles defenseman Denis Gauthier with a five-game ban for his high hit on Montreal’s Josh Gorges.
Bergeron, who called for stiffer penalties from the league and better accountability among players in the aftermath of his injury, said he sees some progress on those fronts.
“I think it’s getting better, just by that suspension. I think they’re trying to make a difference and make a change,” he explained. “But like I said, the same thing that I said in the press conference (last season), it’s about the guys being aware and being responsible. As much as the league wants to help, I think it’s among players that we need to adjust.
“It’s not going to be you’re going to wake up the next day and they will be all gone,” Bergeron continue when pressed on the matter of players still hitting each other high more than they should. “I hope it’s going to get better. No one wants to be on that side of it.”
Since his return from a second concussion suffered Dec. 20, 2008, Bergeron has recorded two assists in four games. But he’s not feeling any after-effects of his absence.
“I feel pretty good. I (think) I’ve been playing pretty well and things are going pretty good for the team and that’s always what you want,” he said. “I’m trying to bring as much as I can to the table to help.”
And as far as any grudges with Philly, you can count defenseman Aaron Ward in the same camp as Bergeron — worrying about the future more than the past.
“I think the biggest key for this team right now is to maintain our level of performance and to be distracted by anything else would be shooting ourselves in the foot, distracting from our personal success,” said Ward.