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30 in 15: Eriksson hopes for chemistry with Bergeron

by Matt Kalman /

BOSTON -- It's the Holy Grail for all scoring wings at every level of the sport.

Everyone wants a center he can jell with that helps him light the lamp on a consistent basis throughout a season.

Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson has had a pair of 30-goal seasons as a professional in North America. With the Iowa Stars of the American Hockey League, the native of Goteborg, Sweden scored 31 aided by the play of center Toby Petersen (and fellow wing Junior Lessard). With the Dallas Stars in 2008-09, Eriksson meshed with center Brad Richards and finished with a career-high 36 goals.

Eriksson hasn't exceeded 29 goals since, and scored at a pace last season (12 goals in 48 games) that would've translated to just a tad more than 20 goals in an 82-game season. So as he tries to boost his production to prior levels in his first season in Boston, Eriksson is hoping he can get on the same page with one of the game's best all-round centers: Patrice Bergeron.

"I've seen him play too and I know he's a really good player and it's really nice to be able to play with him too," Eriksson recently told "So we can see in the practices too, he's got some really good qualities out there. And that's why everyone is talking so good about him too."

When Eriksson was traded from the Dallas Stars to the Bruins on July 4, it was widely assumed he would replace the player he was traded for, Tyler Seguin, on a line centered by Bergeron and completed by left wing Brad Marchand. The Bruins fanned those flames of speculation at the start of training camp as coach Claude Julien put that group together. They've stayed a trio throughout the preseason and figure to be a line when the Bruins open the regular season Oct. 3 at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

There's no doubt Eriksson's responsible defensive-zone play makes him a strong fit for that group. But whether he can score enough to replace Seguin, who scored 29 goals last season and at 21 years old projects to have more productive seasons in the future, remains to be seen. The comparisons between Eriksson and Seguin probably never will stop. However, the 28-year-old Eriksson embraces the challenge of replacing Seguin.

"Maybe a little bit," Eriksson said when asked if he was worried about the comparisons. "But that's how it is to play in this game. You have to have pressure on you and I think everyone is ready for it. So I'm just going to do all I can to prove to all the guys here that I'm a good player."

Eriksson has proven his credentials as a player any team would want in its top-six forward group with 150 goals and 357 points 501 regular-season games. He's also plus-31 for his career. He doesn't wilt in the face of adversity because he knows things always can be tougher than the life of an NHL player.

In 1996, when Eriksson was 11, his father Bo was felled by a brain tumor. He suffered some paralysis and still has to use a wheelchair to get around. One of Eriksson's older brothers (Loui is the youngest of four children) saw his professional hockey dreams dashed by a slew of injuries late last decade. Lennon Eriksson still keeps close tabs on the sport and often is the first to text Loui after a game.

The younger Eriksson's appreciation of what he has never wavers regardless of how things are going with his linemates or how much he's producing.

"It's a lot of other things that are more valuable than hockey," Eriksson said.

Eriksson flaunted his passion for the game and his desire to make his family proud almost from the moment he arrived in North America. The Stars selected Eriksson in the second round (No. 33) in 2003 and he joined their Iowa farm club for the 2005-06 season. Eriksson already had embraced the notion that two-way play was the ticket to reaching the NHL, and once he settled into his new country and his new team, he thrived.

Former Iowa Stars coach Dave Allison recalled that in order to loosen up Eriksson he lent the player his truck to go buy furniture. So Eriksson and his then-girlfriend (now wife; they've been together since high school) Micaela made the long drive from Des Moines to an IKEA in Minneapolis and really began to embrace their new life.

The next season Eriksson played 59 games with Dallas. By 2006-07 he was a regular in the NHL based on his ability to produce points and also play sound defense.

"I think that's something you need to learn," said Eriksson, whose career-best rating is plus-18 in 2011-12. "And I started to learn that when I came over. I played in Iowa my first year, you get a lot of ice time and you figure out how to play in this League. And then I got called up [to the NHL] and I worked myself up to a top line. So it's really nice to be there."

The virtues of two-way play didn't have to be drilled too hard into Eriksson.

"He's such a conscientious individual," Allison said, "once you explained how easy it was to defend and still score, he said, ‘You know what? This is what I want to be. I don't want to be a one-trick pony. I want to play in the National Hockey League and I understand that this is what I have to do,' and I think his brother coming over earlier helped understand the transition."

"I think we've always played the same type of game, which was high-tempo with being good on the forecheck and causing some turnovers. So we're obviously going to, I guess, keep that going and I think he's going to help us doing that."
-- Patrice Bergeron on Eriksson

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli saw Eriksson play as an amateur and was surprised when the forward dropped to the second round in the 2003 draft. Over the years Chiarelli has kept tabs on Eriksson. Last season, Chiarelli said, the Bruins scouted Dallas often and the reports still were strong on Eriksson, whose numbers were down due to several reasons, including a lot of line juggling and personnel changes.

Then it came time to make a deal for Seguin.

"When his name made it into the discussion," Chiarelli said, "it was like, ‘Yeah, we'd have interest.'"

Playing with Bergeron and Marchand last season, Seguin was a plus-23. The idea of putting a more mature, polished player like Eriksson alongside the Selke Trophy-winning Bergeron and the improving Marchand was attractive to Julien, who wasted little time this fall getting that trio together.

"I think it's pretty obvious he's a smart player," Julien said. "His pace of the game is getting better as he's getting used to his linemates and all that stuff. But he's a smart individual both ways … when you look at him you look at a guy who's very reliable, and I think that's where I see Loui, and I think the more comfortable he's going to be, the more you're going to see him produce and help."

Said Bergeron: "I think we've always played the same type of game, which was high-tempo with being good on the forecheck and causing some turnovers. So we're obviously going to, I guess, keep that going and I think he's going to help us doing that."

Eriksson, his wife and their two daughters still are looking for a permanent home in Boston. He said the city reminds him of his hometown because of its proximity to the ocean. Boston will feel even more like home sweet home if Eriksson can take up permanent residence on Bergeron's right wing.

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