|Sean Bergenheim |
After spending the 2006-07 season in playing in Europe in the Russian Super League and the Swedish Elite League, Sean Bergenheim has returned to the Islanders lineup as a physical spark plug.
At the beginning of the season, Bergenheim tried to regain the form that saw him register nine points in the final 19 games of the 2005-06 season. However, playing fewer than ten minutes per game at the beginning of this season, Bergenheim registered just one assist and only two shots in his first five games.
Following the first five games, his ice time jumped, but he continued to switch between the "so-called" fourth line and playing alongside Josef Vasicek and Miroslav Satan. But his recent play has given evidence that Bergenheim should see consistent playing time with his two European counterparts.
Over the past two games, Bergenheim has fired up his team with his physical play, amassing ten hits, while totaling ten shots and chipping in with an assist.
"What you like about his play is that he's a ball of energy," said head coach Ted Nolan. "I even had a flash the other day when he was on the ice and he reminded me of a young Esa Tikkanen. Sean is a disturber on the ice, he skates and is not afraid. He hits anyone who has the puck, jams the net and has good hockey sense."
During an early shift against Phoenix on Thursday, Bergenheim successfully laid out three Coyotes players before returning to the bench for a rest.
"That was a fun shift," recalled Bergenheim. "I didn't really go after those hits, they just came in front of me. You have to hit when you get those chances. Usually you don't have that many chances to hit in a shift."
Having earned more than ten minutes of ice time per game over the past three contests, Bergenheim is the most amount of ice time since a stretch in late November. Coach Nolan isn't the only one noticing a difference in Bergenheim's play. The young Finn also reflected on his recent play.
"The last two games I've felt much more comfortable," admitted Bergenheim. "I think I'm finding my level, it's just taken a while."
Added Nolan: "I really like his progress because he really works at it. He comes in and we talk about certain parts of his game that need to improve, but that will come with time and maturity. It doesn't have so much to do with the skill, it has to do with the experience. As he gets a little more experience and patience with the puck, he's going to be a real good player."
Only 30 games into the season, Bergenheim has ample time to continue his high-energy play while adding to his one goal and five assists. His 36 hits on the season are third among Islanders forwards. He'll look to continue his physical presence going up against the Penguins tonight at the Nassau Coliseum.
"This kid is the real deal, and he's only 23 years old," said Ted. "A number of games this year he was one of our best players on the ice. We have a pretty good young prospect in Bergenheim, who I think is going to get better and better."Search "Bergenheim" in the Islanders TV console for exclusive interviews with Sean Bergenheim.