BOSTON — Another year, another playoff return from injury against the Bruins for speedy winger Simon Gagne.
The veteran forward, who helped Philadelphia make history last spring by scoring four goals, including two game-winners, in the final four games of the Flyers’ comeback in the second round against Boston, hasn’t played for Tampa Bay since Game 1 of its second-round sweep of Washington because of a concussion.
Gagne is scheduled to play tonight in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Bruins at TD Garden after a week of practicing and then taking the morning skate with a handful of his teammates today.
Gagne says he can tell this year’s Bruins team isn’t the same as the one his Flyers won four straight against after being down 0-3 last year.
“Especially when we finished early against Washington, I had a chance to watch the fourth game in Boston against Philly. I had a chance to watch the whole game,” said Gagne, who has 2-5-7 totals in eight playoff games thus far this season. “It’s a different team than last year. They got some new guys, [Tim] Thomas in net now, so it’s a different team than last year.”
Another way the Bruins differ right now from last year’s squad is the absence of Patrice Bergeron. Gagne has a unique perspective on the Boston center among Lighning players because Gagne is from the same hometown as Bergeron , is an offseason workout partner of his, and even organizes a summer charity hockey game with the Bruins alternate captain.
Plus, Gagne has gone through his share of concussion problems over the course of his career even before the one he suffered in the last round against the Capitals.
Bergeron, who skated lightly on his own this morning, is out with what was termed a “mild concussion” suffered against the Flyers in Game 4.
“I was watching the game when it happened and I saw the hit, saw him go to the bench. I was hoping it was not going to be too bad,” said Gagne. “I don’t think it’s that bad. So that’s a good thing. I’m sure he’s going to be back at one point of the series. … Hopefully it’s not going to be too long. He’s a good player, he’s a big part of that team and he’s had some really good playoffs since the start. I just wish him good luck and hopefully he’s going to get back on the ice real soon.”
Bergeron’s eventual return would provide the Bruins with the same type of boost Tampa Bay should receive tonight with Gagne back in uniform.
“Simon, he’s had a terrific last two months of the season. If you look at his stats, he was one of our top, top guys,” said Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher. “In the playoffs he certainly made a big difference against Pittsburgh. It was too bad we were missing him against Washington basically the entire series.
“But he’s a pressure guy. He’s lived it with Team Canada, he’s lived it in Philly. He’s been in pressure situations in the NHL so many years, and he’s come up with big goals. He’s one of those guys that’s a clutch player. Certainly has and will be playing a huge part in our team.”
Some of those pressure situations and big goals have come with the Bruins as the opposition. Gagne’s hoping that history repeats itself and that his pal Bergeron is on the ice for it as well.