Teammates: No replacing Patrice Bergeron

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By Steve Buckley .   BostonHerald.com
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

WILMINGTON — Talk to any member of the Bruins [team stats] and, yes, of course, they’re all hoping Patrice Bergeron is soon back on the ice and competing in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Yet, hockey is practically an afterthought in this discussion. They want to make sure he’s OK — playoffs or no playoffs.

“He has to take care of his own health, and we understand that,” Bruins captainZdeno Chara said yesterday following a morning skate at Ristuccia Arena. “And then he can come back to the team.

“We all have to step up and fill that spot. It’s a new challenge, and we have to take it that way.”

Bergeron, who suffered what has been termed a “mild concussion” early in the third period of the Bruins’ 5-1 victory against Philadelphia last Friday night in the clinching Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, was not on the ice when the team returned to practice yesterday following two days off. Bergeron, who’s had two previous concussions in his career, one of which caused him to miss most of the 2007-08 season, isn’t expected to be in uniform when the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town later this week for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Rookie Tyler Seguin, a healthy scratch for the first two rounds of the playoffs, will take Bergeron’s roster spot against Tampa Bay. Chris Kelly likely will step in for Bergeron on the team’s second line, centering wingers Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi. But, Kelly said, “You can’t replace him. He’s irreplaceable. Hopefully, he’s (soon to be) good to go.”

Added Seguin: “You never want to see a teammate get injured, especially like that, given his situation in the past. We all hope things come around for him. There’s life outside of hockey. As much as we’d like to have him back, it’s important for him to get back feeling like himself again.”

Said goaltender Tim Thomas [stats]: “He’s been great for us this whole year and in the playoffs. But all you can hope for is that it’s not that bad and he’s OK. Not just for us, but for his sake.

“He worked so hard to get back to an elite level (after his earlier concussion) over the past few years, and he’s gotten there. Hopefully, this is not much more than a speed bump.”

Asked what the Bruins will miss about Bergeron on the ice, Chara said, “He brings everything. He’s such an all-around player — very responsible defensively, really good on faceoffs, and he brings a work ethic and leadership up front.”

sbuckley@bostonherald.com