LAS VEGAS - Patrice Bergeron is back in Sin City for the seventh consecutive summer as a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward. But as the center puts a bow on his stellar 2017-18 campaign, his real focus is on being at his best this fall when he embarks on his 15th NHL season.
That preparation starts with a strong rehab from the groin surgery he underwent 10 days ago, a recovery Bergeron expects to take him into the first week of August.
"Right now [I'm] forced to not do anything," Bergeron said while talking at the NHL Awards media day. "Afterwards, it's always about making sure you keep up with the speed and working a lot on the footwork and hand-eye, a lot of off-ice biometrics and stuff like that, strengthening programs to make sure that you stay on top of those things."
Bergeron, who missed 18 games last season mostly because of a broken foot, had hoped to avoid any procedures this summer, but after resuming his workouts earlier this month the groin issue flared up enough that he decided that surgery was the best course of action.
"It was just one of those things that after we took the time off and started working out pretty hard again and back at it to the regular routine of my off-ice, offseason workouts, it came back right away," he said. "Had some talks with the trainers and doctors and took an MRI and it had to be done."
Video: Bergeron, Cassidy arrive in Vegas for NHL Awards
Despite missing time during the Bruins' 50-win campaign, Bergeron put forth one of the best seasons of his career. The 32-year-old compiled 30 goals and 33 assists for 63 points in 64 games, while still maintaining his patented two-way game.
"It was one of those years where I was feeling great. It was so much fun, we had a great season. The guys were playing amazing," said Bergeron, who is fittingly 37 games shy of the 1,000th of his career. "It was so much fun to be a part of it. To miss the amount of games that I missed wasn't fun at all. To me it didn't really put a dent in that season. I felt good and the team I thought played well and took some giant steps forward.
"We know there's a lot of work and we have to start from scratch next year. Definitely working in the right direction."
Bergeron, who has won a record-tying four Selke Trophies, has some stiff competition this time around, with Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings) - also a finalist for the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP - and emerging star Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers) as his fellow nominees.
"You're up against two great players, guys I respect so much. It's so hard to know. I never know every year, it's the same thing," Bergeron said when asked if he expected to take home a fifth Selke. "Anze's had an amazing season. He's up for the MVP, so that says a lot. Sean, I thought he had a tremendous year. He's had a huge impact for his team.
"It's hard to tell. We'll see what happens. I'm trying to enjoy the few days here."
Video: Bergeron goes 1-on-1 during NHL Awards media day
Bergeron has known Couturier since the Flyers standout was just 10 years old. Couturier's father, Sylvain, was an assistant coach with Bergeron's junior team, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL), during the pivot's time there in 2002-03.
"Sean was coming before or after to go on the ice with us," said Bergeron. "He was also around the locker room….he was 10 years old, but he was really skilled for his age and you could tell he had it down…kind of followed him from that moment on."
No matter what happens during Wednesday night's ceremony (8 p.m. EST, NBCSN), Bergeron is making sure to appreciate yet another visit to the Vegas Strip.
"It's always an honor, always special to be here and just to be nominated," said Bergeron. "To win it is not something that I take for granted. It would still be a huge honor."
There have been reports over the last couple of weeks that the Bruins are one of several teams in the running to land free-agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk. The 35-year-old Russia native has played the last five seasons with St. Petersburg of the KHL and is looking to make a comeback in North America.
Kovalchuk notched 417 goals and 816 points in 816 games with the Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils from 2001-13.
"That would be interesting," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "You never want to speculate. You can't get too far ahead of other players. But he would be a nice fit. He's gonna be a top-six guy, can play left and right wing, he can score, he's a big body. He would be a nice addition. I'm sure any team would say that right now.
"He's going to make your team better. I think that's what you always look like as a coach. Does he make your team better? That's the easy part. The tough part is getting those types of players.
"I don't know where [Bruins GM] Donny [Sweeney] is on it, but like I said, he'd sure make us better."
Hitting the Links
Cassidy met with legendary golf instructor - and nickname namesake - Butch Harmon on Tuesday morning for a special lesson at Harmon's golf school just outside Las Vegas. The B's bench boss is an avid golf fan and was thrilled to pick up a few pointers from one of game's greatest minds.
"This morning I was out with Butch Harmon, an opportunity to work with one of the best golf instructors ever," said Cassidy. "It's just a perk of being out here. You might as well enjoy those things in the offseason."
Check out some photos from their meeting.
Video: Cassidy talks Jack Adams, Bergeron, and the offseason