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Steady Recchi may be key to Bergeron revival

Sunday, 08.02.2009 / 9:00 PM / 30 in 30

By John McGourty - NHL.com Staff Writer

With Phil Kessel still unsigned, the composition of the Boston Bruins' first line remains unsettled. With the departure of defensive center Stephane Yelle and a flock of young and older prospects bidding for a job, the fourth line also is unsettled.

Because the Bruins probably will re-sign Kessel, they'll have to remove a well-paid player to make room for him under the salary cap. That could leave the second line unsettled.

In all likelihood, the Bruins' only set line at this point could be the third line of center Patrice Bergeron, left wing Mark Recchi and right wing Chuck Kobasew. It's a line that played very well for the Bruins last spring in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, despite Recchi being bothered by kidney stones.

The Bruins acquired Recchi, 41, along with a 2010 second-round draft pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning last March in exchange for two exciting prospects, defenseman Matt Lashoff and right wing Martins Karsums. It was a steep price to pay, but Recchi rewarded the Bruins with 10 goals and 16 points in 18 games and then gave them 3 goals and 6 points in 11 playoff games.

Perhaps the biggest contribution Recchi made last season was helping Bergeron rediscover his skills. Bergeron, who suffered a serious head injury in 2007 and another lesser concussion in December 2008, looked like his old self when teamed with Recchi.

If Bergeron returns to the form that saw him score 70 points in two straight seasons from 2005-07, it would have an effect similar to signing one of the top available free agents this summer. Recchi thinks it can happen.

"You can see Bergeron is regaining his confidence," Recchi said. "When you go through what he's been through the past 1 1/2 or two years, it's not easy. But I think he's back to being the player everybody has seen in the past. He's holding onto the puck and playing with strength. He's a great two-way player.

"It's fun to see him getting back to health and it's fun to play with him. I'm just trying to support Chuck and Patrice by going to the areas that they need me to go."

One hockey Web site predicted Recchi would play on the fourth line, but the player and General Manager Peter Chiarelli said that won't happen.

"He's not a fourth-liner," Chiarelli said. "He didn't play there last year for us and I don't anticipate he will this year. He's going to play on one of the top three lines, whether on the right side or the left is to be determined."

"I see my role as exactly what I was playing last year," Recchi said. "Me, Bergie and Chuckie had some great success together, whether we had to check or do some other things. I would probably take the same position on the power play, get in front of the net and create some traffic there and do some things. ... That's all determined at training camp by what the coach thinks. You have to earn your ice time; you can't just have it handed to you. For 20 years, I've looked at it that way."

And in those 20 years, Recchi has two Stanley Cups, seven NHL All-Star Game selections, a third-place finish in voting for the 2000 Hart Trophy and two top-five Art Ross Trophy finishes.

With Joe Sakic retiring, Recchi's 897 assists and 1,428 points are the most among active players, and with Brendan Shanahan still looking for work, his 537 goals is second among current NHL players.

Recchi thinks the Bruins can make a strong run at the 2010 Stanley Cup, and that's why he decided to play one more season.

"It's been a great run," Recchi said. "I want to give it one more chance and then I can sail off into the sunset."

Author: John McGourty | NHL.com Staff Writer

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