But no matter how many times you go, it never gets old.
“[Last year], it was a lot of fun,” Bergeron said following Thursday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “I was trying to, I guess, soak everything in, and enjoy it, and I’m going to try to do the same thing this year.
“It’s a great experience. It’s a chance to meet some of the best players around the league, and a laid-back atmosphere as well. It’s always nice to be there, and this year, it’s a great city — Nashville’s beautiful — so again, looking forward to it.”
Claude Julien, who has coached Bergeron not only with the Bruins but on the international stage at the Olympics, is always glad to see one of his top forwards gain recognition from the league.
“It’s always the same thing with him — he’s deserving,” Julien said. “I think he’s been a great player for us for many years now, and he’s being recognized not just here, but on the international scene as well as a good player. To me, it’s a no-brainer. I think he deserves to be there. So glad that they were able to acknowledge him.”
This year’s experience, however, will be markedly different from last year’s. The All-Star Game will feature a new 3-on-3 format, and players have been assigned to four teams based on the NHL’s four divisions.
Given the depth of some of the teams, it should make for an exciting showcase at the end of the month.
“It’s definitely going to be wide open,” Bergeron said. “There’s going to be a lot of room on the ice. We didn’t have that many games this year 3-on-3, so we’ll see what happens. Definitely some teams that are very deep, I guess.”
Then, Bergeron added with a grin, “So there will be a lot of backchecking on my part.”
The league’s annual showcase, Bergeron said, is a chance to unwind. It is a chance to mingle with some of the top talent the NHL has to offer. And this year, it will also offer the chance to rekindle relationships with at least one former teammate, as Florida’s Jaromir Jagr will serve as the captain of the Atlantic Division.
Despite Jagr’s facetious pleas for fans to refrain from voting him into the game — he contended he was too old for the new 3-on-3 format — Bergeron will doubtlessly be happy to see him there.
“It will be nice to see him,” Bergeron said. “He’s having a great year again. I guess age doesn’t matter for him; he just keeps producing, and it’s going to be nice to see him.”
McQuaid to IR; Pastrnak Back Up
On Thursday morning, Bruins GM Don Sweeney announced that defenseman Adam McQuaid has been placed on injured reserve with an upper body injury. McQuaid was boarded by Washington’s Zach Sill in Tuesday’s loss to the Capitals, and though there was no penalty on the play, Sill was assessed a two-game suspension by the league on Wednesday evening.
McQuaid required assistance getting off the ice and down the tunnel after taking the hit.
Injuries are nothing new for this team. For much of last season — and throughout this season, too — there have been key players missing from the lineup. In addition to McQuaid, the Bruins are currently without forwards David Krejci (upper body) and Brad Marchand (suspension), and they will simply have to find a way to persevere.
“It’s another thing to make our team stronger,” said forward Matt Beleskey. “Someone else has to step up, and I don’t have any doubt in here that someone will.”
In a corresponding roster move, the Bruins recalled David Pastrnak from Providence on Thursday morning. This will mark Pastrnak’s first appearance with Boston since November, when he suffered a foot fracture that would force him to miss seven weeks of game action.
“[I] haven’t been here for a while, so happy I’m back here,” Pastrnak said. “Just exciting to play some hockey.”
After returning from the foot injury, Pastrnak briefly joined the Providence Bruins before making the trip overseas to represent the Czech Republic at World Juniors. He played four games there while serving as an assistant captain, tallying a goal and three assists.
In the end, Pastrnak was disappointed to see his final World Juniors appearance end with a quarterfinals loss.
“In the past, every time we lost, I still said to myself, ‘We’ve got one more year, or two more years,’” he said. “This year, it was just like, it’s over. I wanted to play again, and I’m really going to miss those guys. It was a great group of our age [group], and a pleasure to play with them.”
Given the time he missed due to injury, Pastrnak said there was no better way to get back into game shape than to represent his country overseas.
“I played there a lot — played power play, and played a big role on the team, so it helped me with my confidence,” he said. “Right now, I feel good, and exciting to play some hockey.
“I’m really happy I went to World Juniors. On the one side, [there’s] all the guys in there, and [I] played for my country, and I played a lot of hockey. I played four games in maybe seven days, so it’s really good, and the best way to get into shape is in games. So that’s what I really needed.”
Pastrnak suffered a minor finger injury during the tournament upon being slashed, but he was cleared by the Bruins medical staff after returning to Boston and feels no ill effects of the injury.
“I already played some games with it [at World Juniors],” he said, “so it’s fine. It’s just a finger.”
Julien saw Pastrnak play a couple of games at World Juniors, but between those games and one practice on Thursday, it is difficult to ascertain how impactful the 19-year-old sophomore will be in his first NHL action in more than two months.
“We’ll see where he’s at,” Julien said. “It’s always the same thing with me: If I see he’s doing well, he’ll be utilized more. If there’s a little bit more rust than we expect, then I’ve got to make some decisions there. But it’s nice to have him back.”
And though the B’s have had some trouble of late putting the puck in the net without Krejci and Marchand, Julien cautioned against relying on Pastrnak to suddenly solve those problems.
“We should be looking at the rest of our team,” he said. “There’s no reason why everybody else can’t pitch in. But he has the ability to do well in those kind of situations, so hopefully, he gets himself in those situations where he’s able to help us produce.”
Even after a mere few hours with the big club, Pastrnak’s impact on his teammates was already noticeable — not necessarily offensively, but simply because of the energy he brings.
“It’s always great to have Pasta around,” Beleskey said. “He’s an energetic young guy, he’s always having fun and has a smile on his face, and on the ice, he’s electric out there offensively and makes some great plays. So he’s going to be a big help for us.”
On the Road Again
Though the effort has been there for the Bruins over the course of a stretch in which they have dropped five of six in regulation, the results have not been there.
That will be the focus over the course of this upcoming five-day road swing through New Jersey, Ottawa, New York, Philadelphia and Buffalo.
“Last game was a good effort, but then we don’t get the result that we want; ultimately, it’s all about that, and winning the two points,” Bergeron said. “So we’re definitely looking forward to going on the road and starting on a good note [Friday], and on a back-to-back, it’s two big games for us — divisional teams — so we need to be ready.”
The next week will be a grind for the Bruins, but fortunately, in the days leading up to the trip, they were able to take advantage of some much-needed practice time.
“We’ve just been kind of working on our game, as a whole, and trying to tighten up a little bit with the injuries and the situation that we’re in,” Julien said. “So it’s just a matter of trying to get ourselves in sync even more than ever.”
Following Thursday’s practice, Julien did not have any new information regarding the nature of McQuaid’s injury. He did say, though. that Krejci is progressing as planned as he recovers from an undisclosed upper body injury suffered December 27 at Ottawa.
“So far, so good with him,” Julien said.
Julien confirmed that Krejci would not make the trip to New Jersey with the team, but he did not rule out the possibility of Krejci — or any other injured player — joining the team during the trip.
“If halfway through, if something changes, they’ll probably join us,” Julien said. “But they’re not starting the road trip with us.”
Thursday’s Practice Lineup
White Jerseys: Loui Eriksson, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak
Gold Jerseys: Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, Brett Connolly
Gray Jerseys: Frank Vatrano, Joonas Kemppainen, Jimmy Hayes, Brad Marchand
Red Jerseys: Landon Ferraro, Zac Rinaldo, Max Talbot, Tyler Randell
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Zach Trotman, Dennis Seidenberg, Colin Miller, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson