WILMINGTON, Mass -- Bruins center Patrice Bergeron skated with 12 other Bruins in an optional practice Friday at Ristuccia Arena, and as he skated coach Claude Julien told the media that Bergeron is improving and will travel with the team to Carolina for the game against the Hurricanes on Saturday.
"He's skating now and he's skating with us, and he's better off to work out with us than to stay behind,” Julien said.
But Bergeron, who suffered his fourth concussion on April 2, isn't expected to play Saturday.
"I don't think so," said Julien. "We're certainly going to be cautious with him. He's had a history of [concussions] and we're not going to take a gamble with it."
But for a Bruins team in dire need of a lift on and off the ice, the fact that one of their leaders and arguably their best player is nearing a return brought smiles.
“It’d be very big,” said Matt Bartkowski of the mental boost that having Bergeron back would bring. “He’s consistent and that’s what we need to find right now. We had a pretty solid game [Thursday] and I thought we played better even though we didn’t get the result. If we can find consistency every game like he brings every shift, then I think we’d be in much better shape.”
Bruins winger Jaromir Jagr was acquired from Dallas the same day Bergeron suffered the concussion and has yet to play with the reigning Selke Trophy winner. But Jagr realizes just how valuable a player like Bergeron can be and is looking forward to the opportunity.
“I haven’t had a chance to play with him yet or see him play -- if I don’t count the games against him -- but what I hear is he’s a top guy, so it’s hard to play without your top guy,” Jagr said. “There’s not many guys who can make a huge difference during the game and he’s that kind of guy. So it will be a huge plus for our team when he comes back.”
Jagr was asked whether, during the course of his storied career, he has had the pleasure of playing with a player like Bergeron.
“Probably Ron Francis,” Jagr said. “He was very responsible defensively and he had good numbers offensively. He could pass the puck so well.”
When asked how much players such as Francis and Bergeron help those around them, Jagr said they also make life easier for coaches.
“Not only for me, but even for the coaches,” Jagr said with a laugh. “I think they feel a lot better when those guys are on the ice and don’t have to worry about the team scoring against you. It’s a huge plus for them, and coaches don’t get headaches during those shifts.”