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Improved Bergeron vows to return this season

by James Murphy
BOSTON -- Cameras were flashing and the media horde was in tight around Patrice Bergeron on Friday as he spoke publicly for the first time since suffering his second concussion in as many seasons on Dec. 20.

The scene was in stark contrast to when Bergeron first met the media after his devastating Grade 3 concussion on Oct. 27, 2007 following a hit from behind by the Flyers' Randy Jones that forced Bergeron to miss the remainder of the 2007-08 season.

Back then, Bergeron reluctantly emerged from his downtown condo and made his way to the rink despite bouts of dizziness and nausea. He wore a neck brace and could not handle the bright flashes from cameras. Bergeron struggled to speak, lost his breath constantly and had to lay down in the dressing room after before being taken away in a wheelchair.

And while no one is happy discussing another concussion Friday, instead of the Bruins' recent success, there was a distinct sense of optimism and encouragement this time, not the shock and fear surrounding his first concussion.

"I'm very confident I'll play this year," Bergeron said. "It's a matter of when. That's why I don't want to put on a date on it and get disappointed like I was last year in the playoffs. I've learned from that. So yes, I do think I'll be back."

That was the general consensus around the TD Banknorth Garden.

"Certainly, for me, this year, it is a lot more different this time around than the last time," Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli said. "Everything from the severity of the injury, to the way he is physically right now and to his attitude, he's very positive. To me, there's no comparison."

Coach Claude Julien had the same impression.

"My first concern is the individual, and I care about that above the game itself," Julien said. "So to see him the way he is now, compared to last time, is very positive and we're all happy he's doing better."

Another sign of encouragement is the confirmation Bergeron received from Dr. Robert Cantu, who diagnosed that Bergeron suffered a concussion this time because he took a blow to the jaw when he checked Carolina's Dennis Seidenberg.

"Especially after talking to the doctor, with that type of hit right on the jaw, it has nothing to do with last year's hit," said Bergeron, who wears a mouthpiece and a specially designed helmet. "He said it would have happened to almost anyone."

Knowing that this incident was not a direct result of last season's serious concussion has provided a sense of relief not only for Bergeron, but for the team.

"Both from my observation of the hit, when it happened this time, and then the confirmation from the doctors, I know that this could happen to anyone and I think that gives Patrice a sense of security and relief going forward," Chiarelli said.

Another element that has helped Bergeron during the past few weeks is the experience from the first concussion and how he learned from the aftermath of that injury.

"Having gone through that I knew what to expect, if it was going to be the same or similar," Bergeron said. "The fact that most of that stuff never happened and I didn't go through all that again was a good sign. The biggest thing I learned from last year is to take it day by day. Don't look too far ahead. If I do, I might get disappointed.

"If I say I'm going to skate in two weeks or one week and I don't, then I'm going to be disappointed. I want to take it day by day, follow the orders from the doctors, and try to improve. But also rest and don't try to do too much when you do feel better, because it can set you back."

As Chiarelli also pointed out, the fact that Bergeron is such a strong and determined person is helping him, just as it helped him recover the first time around.


"All my experiences with Patrice is that he is just a strong kid and he showed that with the way he battled back over the last year and I know he will do that again now," Chiarelli said.

While Bergeron admitted he is frustrated to be going through a concussion recovery again, he is staying positive.

"It's been tough, it's been frustrating," Bergeron said. "I worked my way back from last year. I was starting to feel a lot better on the ice and now that hit happened. But I'm trying to stay positive and now that the toughest is behind me, I'm feeling a lot better. I'm obviously very positive about how I'm feeling."

It would only be natural for a player who has now gone through this experience twice in just more than a year to have fear and be hesitant when he returns, but Bergeron doesn't regret the play he was injured on and plans on playing the same style.

"Last year, I felt I came back and I wasn't scared at all," he said. "It's the same thing. It's the type of hit that it happened and there's not much you can do about it. I'm going to go back out there and play my game and that's about it."

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