The centerman has been skating for about three weeks, and working out for more than a month, but it was a welcome sight to see him take the ice with the B's. He's the last Bruin to arrive in Boston, as we've been chronicling the returns every day, so it's also an indication of just how close we are to Training Camp (which kicks off on the 11th of September).
Alas, "Gang's all here!"
When I spoke with Patrice this past Thursday, as he was in NYC taking part in the annual NHL Player Media Tour, he gave an update on his health then - that he was feeling good, basing all of his workouts on "feel" and paying attention to his pain threshold.
On Sunday, however, we got a glimpse in-person of where his conditioning level is at this point. And from these eyes, he doesn't appear to have missed a beat.
Though Captain's Practices aren't necessarily the best measuring stick, considering the intensity isn't quite what it will be until camp starts, Bergeron didn't appear to have any discomfort. He even tested himself with contact, and during one drill, was battling with defenseman Matt Bartkowski in the corner.
"It was actually the first time I was actually trying it and it felt fine," Bergeron said in the locker room after the skate, of the battling. "I don't feel tentative at all, so it's good news."
Great news, considering in late June, the list of injuries included a broken rib, torn cartilage (around the rib), a collapsed lung and separated shoulder.
Bergeron said his shoulder is "fine for the most part" and the lung is fine - "otherwise, I wouldn't be able to breathe out there."
In fact, doctors' strict orders during the four-week prescribed rest period following the postseason were: "the obvious, not fly, or not blow into a balloon or stuff like that, that's what they told me, so obviously I wasn't going to do that."
It may seem odd to hear "no blowing into a balloon" as a strict order (Bergy would admit that, as well), but by taking any and all precautions to heart, that helped the lung to heal.
Now, it's about getting rid of the soreness he still feels around his rib, which could be from the rib itself, or the cartilage that had been torn before healing up. He feels it most when he does core exercises, or every once in a while when he reaches out on the ice.
Bergeron is not worried, and believes it will go away with time.
"I don't know if I'm cleared or not. We'll see that in the next couple of days with the doctors," he told gathered reporters. "I still feel some tenderness in my rib area, but I'm sure it's normal, it's part of the process of getting back and getting healthy. But it's been good, I've been able to do most of my workouts and I'm feeling fine and same thing on the ice, so it's good news."
While the soreness is subsiding, Bergeron will be working to get back his timing on the ice.
"I felt fine. Legs were good, the touch obviously, it's going to come as we go along. I think it's getting there and I feel pretty good," he said.
"It's good to be on the ice and staying on it even longer, just to work on things and feeling good and touching the ice and what not so, so far it's been good."
With all of the Bruins back, the core intact, and the new faces blending in, it's hard to believe the regular season is still a month away. But with camp inching closer, the excitement is just as high.
"It's always a great time of the year," said Bergeron. "Just to get back at it and get back here and meeting the guys again and getting ready for the season."
Captain's Practice Observations
-While Patrice Bergeron appeared to be maneuvering - and battling - just fine, nothing has looked out of the ordinary in Gregory Campbell's stride either. He's wearing a leg sleeve, and said the training and equipment staff have been helping him ease any discomfort when putting on his right skate by placing in foam and other materials to take pressure off the area.
-As referenced above, these informal practices aren't the best indicator of what will translate into game action, but with the largest group on the ice to date during Sunday's practice (27 skaters and three goaltenders), the intensity was definitely kicked up a notch, and the amount of shooting benefited the goaltenders. During one drill, a rush of three players would weave and skate up the ice, each stickhandling with his own puck, and rapid fire at the goalies. We got a chance to see Chad Johnson's quick reflexes and then during battling drills, he made a few quick glove saves that caught my eye.
-Matt Fraser has a "Bruin build," listed at 6-foot-1, 204 pounds, as does Loui Eriksson (6'2", 196-pounds). Fraser's physical nature helps him create space on the ice (no one in the AHL scored more combined goals than him in the past two seasons) and he's been known to not shy away from dropping the gloves. I'd expect Eriksson's physical build to translate more into his two-way and not being afraid to throw a hit, cause turnovers and use all areas of the ice to make a play.
-Captain Zee. He's the tallest and strongest on the ice, yes, but everything always seems to revolve around the Captain, on and off the ice, whether it's by leading drills, by his demeanor, his aura, or his commanding yet always welcoming presence around the team.
-Dougie Hamilton has said this week that this is the most coordinated he's ever been, becoming stronger and working on his quickness this summer to use his tall, 6-foot-5 frame to the best of his ability (I say 6-foot-5 but he appears taller, so maybe that will change when physicals take place at the start of camp). His skating is already noticeably faster.
-Milan Lucic acknowledged this summer when we went to visit him in Vancouver that there was "big talk" last year that he was "out of shape" with the lockout. This summer, No. 17, as he does every summer, worked to get his conditioning, strength and speed up to 100 percent. These Captain's Practices aren't game-like, but he looks like a freight train moving out there, picking up serious steam once he gets into his third or fourth stride during flow drills and rushes.
-Camaraderie. These guys are having fun out there, every day, every drill, every shot, every stride. I reiterate this, not because it surprises you one bit, but because it will get you even more excited for the puck to finally, "officially" drop on October 3 at TD Garden.