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Bergenheim to face ex-Lightning mates for first time

by Alain Poupart /
Sean Bergenheim has fond memories of his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning, particularly his impressive playoff performance last season.

But there won't be much time for nostalgia Saturday night when Bergenheim faces his former team in the regular season for the first time as a member of the Florida Panthers.

"There's good guys on that team," Bergenheim said after the Panthers' morning skate Saturday. "Even though I keep in contact with a few of them, on the ice there's definitely contact, but it's maybe not the good kind."

Bergenheim says he still keeps in touch with a few players on the Lightning, among them Victor Hedman, Dominic Moore and Mattias Ritola. There have been text messages exchanged in the last few days, but nothing about Saturday night's game.

The Panthers and Lightning faced each other twice in the exhibition season, and Bergenheim was in the lineup for one of those games.

"I kind of did feel different," Bergenheim said. "It was good to get that over with, the first game against them. Now, I actually feel pretty normal right now. I'm looking forward to playing against the system and these guys. I've got to set aside that there's some friends. They're not friends on the ice."

One of the many veterans acquired by the Panthers in July, Bergenheim signed with Florida after playing a major role in the Lightning's run to the Eastern Conference final, where Tampa Bay lost in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

Bergenheim had 14 goals in 80 regular season games in 2010-11, but then erupted for nine goals in 16 playoff games.

He agreed to a four-year, $11 million deal with the Panthers on July 1 when it was 5 a.m. Finland time. Later that day, he got married in Helsinki.

In his first two games with the Panthers this season, Bergenheim has yet to collect a point but is averaging about 15 minutes a game on the third line with center Marcel Goc and right wing Jack Skille.

Bergenheim's Panthers debut came last Saturday against the Islanders, the team with which he began his NHL career.

Like that game, Bergenheim figures to have just a little bit of extra motivation against Tampa Bay, even if he tries to downplay it.

"When you play against a former team, there's always a little bit of extra," he said. "Right now, we're focusing on our game, getting our game going. There's a little bit of extra motivation, but I really don't see it as that big of a deal."
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