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Bergeron's absence opens door for Seguin

by David Kalan /
By the time the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning take the ice for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday, it will have been eight days since Boston was last in action. Obviously, the players for both teams are itching to get back at it, but it's probably not a stretch to say Bruins center Tyler Seguin is itching more than most.

Seguin, the second pick of the 2010 Entry Draft, has yet to play in the postseason, but is expected to make his first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the series opener.

"It's tough watching," Seguin told the media Wednesday. "But you've got to do whatever you can, whether it's keeping a good vibe and even pregame skates and keeping everyone loose, and you get ready to go. There's a lot of stuff you see from up top that maybe you can't describe, but there's a lot more space when you're looking up there and you try to take that to the ice.

"It's a big stage and I'm just really excited."

Seguin had 11 goals and 11 assists in 74 games during the regular season, but with the 19-year-old not necessarily prepared for the rigors of a Stanley Cup playoff run, he has spent the first two rounds as a healthy scratch.

That should end Saturday, but Seguin's postseason debut comes at a cost. He'll be filling in for Patrice Bergeron, whose 12 points this postseason and sterling face-off skills have been crucial to Boston's success thus far. While the team's website reported Tuesday that Bergeron was feeling better as he dealt with concussion symptoms, he will not be in the lineup for Game 1.

"His loss is felt in a lot of areas," center Gregory Campbell said. "He was obviously big for the penalty kill. His faceoff -- I don't know what he was, 65 percent on faceoffs (actually 64.2 percent), so that'll be big. He was taking a lot of draws for us, and as you know, starting out in the defensive zone and winning that draw is key on the penalty kill."

While Seguin may not yet have honed the skills that Bergeron brings at the NHL level, the team's mantra has been that the burden of filling that void shouldn't rest solely on the shoulders of a 19-year-old.

The task of covering the weaknesses exposed by Bergeron's absence is expected to be a group responsibility.

"Patrice being out, that's a huge hole to fill," center Chris Kelly said. "But it's not a one-person job. I think it'll be a team effort that does that and we're a deep group here and a very capable group of doing that."

Of course, the Bruins are a team that has dealt with shuffled lines and defensive pairings for much of the postseason, something that seemingly hasn't affected chemistry, or given Boston's second-round sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers, results.

As coach Claude Julien noted in his press conference Wednesday, those types of changes have been happening not just on the fly in game situations, but in practice. Whether or not players are comfortable shifting partners and linemates is almost irrelevant. "They don't have a choice," said Julien. "They have to adapt."

However, adapting to life without Bergeron, given his considerable contributions, could be more difficult. And while Seguin certainly faces a learning curve, some, such as center Brad Marchand, expect that he'll adapt better than most.

"It's the position I never wanted to be in (seeing a teammate get injured), but now I get my opportunity. One of our best players is injured, but injuries are a part of the game. You can't replace a guy like (Bergeron), but I'm going to go out there and work my hardest."
-- Tyler Seguin

"I think even from the start of the year until now, you can see (Seguin) is -- he's grown as a player drastically," said Marchand, himself a rookie in his first playoff campaign. "He's going to be a great player. I've told a lot of people that I can't wait to see him playing even next year."

While next season may be a fine display of how Seguin has grown, with the Bruins four wins from their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 21 years, Boston needs him to grow up a little bit sooner than that. It's a tall task for the young forward, to be sure, but the Bruins have reached a point in the season when excuses do little.

If nothing else, Seguin seems more than aware of that.

"It's the position I never wanted to be in," Seguin said of seeing a teammate get injured, "but now I get my opportunity. One of our best players is injured, but injuries are a part of the game. You can't replace a guy like (Bergeron), but I'm going to go out there and work my hardest."

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