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Northeast: Big week turns sour for Bergeron

by James Murphy
Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron has just completed the most eventful week of his young hockey career.

A week ago, Bergeron was named to the Canadian Olympic team on Dec. 30. Later that night, Bergeron would score a goal and help his team shut out the Atlanta Thrashers, 4-0. But the whirlwind week wasn't over, as Bergeron and the Bruins practiced on a snowy Fenway Park rink on New Year's Eve to prepare for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day where Bergeron would set up Marco Sturm's game-winning, overtime goal to cap a dramatic comeback for a 2-1 victory.

But the wild ride ended on a sour note Monday when Bergeron took a Dennis Wideman slap shot off his hand, breaking his thumb. The good news is the injury will not require surgery and Bergeron may miss only two weeks, keeping him on track for Vancouver.

Bergeron admitted that he never could've envisioned the week he had, prior to his injury, of course.

"No, I couldn't have imagined all of this happening within such a short time," Bergeron said. "This was just all of these things coming through at once and it's been a lot of fun. I'm obviously honored to be named to the Olympic team and then to take part in something like this [the Winter Classic] has been amazing. It's obviously a time in my career I will never forget."

Kessel slumping -- Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel has hit a bit of a wall of late, scoring only twice in his last 10 games. His is still the team's leading scorer with 14 goals, but the critics are starting to chirp and some are wondering where his production went. Kessel has been through slumps before and knows just as many goal scorers before him were and are today, he is a streaky scorer and only persistent shooting pays off.

"I went through the same thing last year," Kessel told the Toronto Sun, referring to the career-high 36 goals he scored in 2008-09 while playing for the Bruins. "It comes back around, it always will. I'll stick with it and eventually it will break. They can't stop it every single time you shoot the puck. It's not possible."

Coach Ron Wilson agreed and also pointed to the fact that his top winger is always shooting.

"I don't have any fears about Phil," Wilson told the Toronto Sun. "He is getting four or five shots a game and getting some chances."

As Kessel pointed out, this happens to everyone.

"How many guys score every game?" Kessel said. "No one scores every game. There are only a few guys in the league who get points consistently every game."

Miller joins Team USA -- As expected Ryan Miller was named to the USA Olympic squad and most expect him to get the nod as the starter. Headed into Tuesday night's game against Tampa Bay, Miller is 23-8-3 with a 2.02 goals against average and .902 save percentage. In short tournaments like the Olympics, goaltending plays a huge role and if the underdog USA team falters, Miller is the perfect guy to bail them out.

"He's played very well," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff told the Buffalo News. "Through the first 40 games, there're maybe been a couple blips in the radar, but other than that he's been really solid. We've had games where we've played poorly and he's helped us win and games we've been solid in front of him. He's been there to make the big saves at tough times in the game."

Miller missed the Olympics four years ago because of a thumb injury that kept him out early in the 2005-06 season, but since then he has been one of the most consistent goaltenders in the NHL. Team USA and Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke knows first hand just how good Miller can be and that's why he selected him. 

"He has played really well, unfortunately several of those games have been against us," Burke laughed at the press conference unveiling the American team.

As always, Miller is doing his best to remain focused on the task at hand, but he admitted he is looking forward to the Olympics.

"I'm excited, but I've got about 30 more games of NHL hockey to go," Miller said. "There's a lot to be done before the Olympics and I'll take a few moments to enjoy it because it's a great honor. I'm really excited to put on the colors and represent the United States."

Habs' Americans staying home -- Despite the fact that they both played for Team USA at the 2006 Olympics in Turino, Canadiens forwards Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta were not named to the 2010 USA Olympic squad. But while they would both love to play in Vancouver next month, there are no hard feelings from either. Both realize that even though they will only be 31 and 30 respectively next month, there is a clear youth movement in effect.

"It's a little disappointing," Gionta told the Montreal Gazette. "It's an honor any time to represent your country. But they were looking for youth and they're going to have a good, well-balanced team, that's for sure. It's time to get those guys some experience. I think their chances will be good with a lot of young, hungry guys."

"It is what it is," Gomez said. "You get the call, you realize it, you move on and focus more on here. It wasn't meant to be. Congratulations to the guys who made it. You just wish them the best of luck and hope the U.S.A. brings the gold."

Around the Northeast -- Boston's Milan Lucic (high ankle sprain) was taken off the injured reserve list and is now day-to-day with a return to the lineup this Thursday against the Blackhawks or this Saturday against the Rangers a possibility. ... The Bruins signed unrestricted free agent forward Miroslav Satan this past weekend and Satan, who last played in June, winning a Stanley Cup with the Penguins, was forced into the lineup Tuesday with Bergeron injured. That was a lot earlier than expected, but the recently named Slovakian Olympian was a plus-2 with one shot in 14:06 of ice time. ... In Montreal, the "K" brothers have both been sidelined by injuries recently. Andre Kostitsyn has missed the last two games with a knee injury and his brother Sergei has missed the last three with an ankle injury. ... The Leafs got some tough news on the injury front Monday with forward Mikhail Grabovski expected to miss six weeks with a broken wrist and forward Wayne Primeau out two to four weeks with an upper body injury. Defenseman Mike Komisarek also missed Tuesday's 3-2 win over Florida with an upper body injury and is day-to-day. ... Forward John Mitchell returned from a knee injury and played Tuesday.

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