WILMINGTON, Mass. — Some outsiders, and even some insiders, look back at the Boston Bruins’ trade of Joe Thornton to San Jose in Nov. 2005 as a dark day in the franchise’s stories history.

But Bruins center Patrice Bergeron actually looks back at it kind of fondly. After all, one of his best linemates and off-ice pals,  Marco Sturm, came to Boston in the deal. And Bergeron enjoyed rubbing elbows with defenseman Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau — the other two parts of San Jose’s bounty — for the short time they were here.

“It wasn’t really my job to do anything about it. It was more my job to go back and go out there and play and I was happy to get Sturmy,” Bergeron told this morning one day before Thornton and his Sharks are scheduled to be on Causeway Street for a battle of the top two teams in the NHL. “Right away we had chemistry together and it was fun. Stewy was a great player and also Prims was a great player and a great guy. Those three players, I was so happy to have a chance to meet them. They’re awesome guys and I’m really happy I had a chance to know those guys.”

Don’t read too much into Bergeron’s positive look at the trade. He certainly missed Thornton as much as anyone after the former Bruins captain was gone. As an 18-year-old rookie in 2003-04, Bergeron had leaned heavily on Thornton for guidance. And Thornton was open to sharing his similar experiences.

“He meant a lot. He was our leader, he was our best player, he was an example for me coming in. He was the last guy to (be a teenage rookie), too. I was an 18-year-old, I looked up to him a lot and he was great to me,” said Bergeron.

Bergeron is one of only two current Bruins, along with winger P.J. Axelsson, who played consistently with Thornton in black and gold. Axelsson started out in the NHL with Thornton and has kept tabs on him since. He’s looking forward to a thrilling night at the Garden.

“He was a great guy to have around. He (kept it light). It’s going to be fun to see him on the ice tomorrow night. We don’t get to see him that often. It’ll be a fun time,” said the Swedish winger.

But to Bergeron, the emotion of Thornton’s return is overshadowed by the magnitude of the clash of conference-leading titans. And he wants his teammates to make sure they don’t get too caught up in the hype.

“It’s going to be a big, emotional game – more for Joe than anything else. It’s going to be emotional for us, when I say that, more because we’re playing San Jose, they’re on top in the other conference and it’s a big game,” Bergeron said.”We’ve got to approach it the same way we’ve been approaching each and every game.”