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Bergeron returns for Game 3

by Shawn P. Roarke /
TAMPA, Fla. -- Boston coach Claude Julien was as good as his word.

Julien said Thursday morning that if Patrice Bergeron took the warmups for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Lightning, he'd dress for the game. Bergeron joined his teammates for the warmups prior to Thursday night's game -- and, sure enough, he took the ice with his teammates, ending a 13-day layoff from a concussion.

Bergeron had been nearing a return for the past several days and had to be cleared by the team's medical staff Thursday afternoon before he could officially return.

"That will probably be a decision made today, if not tomorrow as he inches closer," Julien said Thursday morning. "He's feeling pretty good. It's not totally up to the coach to make the final decision; a lot of other things have to happen.

"I can only give you the same answer I gave you the other day; if he is in the warm-up he's ready to go. I'm sure there will be some discussions on that as we move forward today. Just goes to show you that he is inching closer."

Bergeron took the morning skate with his Bruins teammates -- minus Milan Lucic, who is nursing a sore right foot -- and took part in all drills.

As has been the case since the injury, Bergeron was not made available for comment.

But he looked sharp in the drills Thursday morning, winning the majority of the faceoffs he took against Gregory Campbell and picking the far corner on back-to-back shots against backup Tuukka Rask in shooting drills.

"If you see him out there in the warm-up tonight, I'm not just sending him out there for a skate. He's going to be playing," Julien said.

Bergeron did not skate Wednesday because the Bruins did not take the ice on the travel day from Boston to Tampa Bay, but he had skated each of the four previous days. Plus, Julien said that Bergeron was involved in contact drills at some point before Tuesday's game and passed that test.

Bergeron, who has not played since suffering a concussion on May 6 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, is expected to take a regular shift on the second line.

"He feels his conditioning is right on," Julien said. "In skating practices, he doesn't feel winded or anything like that."

That means Bergeron will play between Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand and that he will take regular shifts on the penalty kill.

Tyler Seguin, however, was not the one removed from the lineup if Bergeron returns. Seguin, a rookie, was Bergeron's replacement in the first two games of the series, but he earned his way into the lineup after scoring 3 goals and 3 assists in the two games, including a two-goal, four-point night in Tuesday's 6-5 Boston win in Game 2.

"Well I'm going to tell you right now, he's going to be in the lineup (Thursday)," Julien said after arriving here on Wednesday. "That's for sure. You don't pull a guy like that out of your lineup that's been very good. Like I said, he's earned it, he deserves to be in the lineup, and that's what we want to see. We want to see those kinds of things happening."

Shawn Thornton was the healthy scratch due to Bergeron's return.

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