DETROIT — It wasn’t quite a perfect debut — he did, after all, lose the opening faceoff — but the important part was that Patrice Bergeron was on the ice, demonstrating his customary two-way game, all while not suffering any ill effects from the injuries that crippled him in the postseason.
The last time Bergeron was seen in a game he was dealing with the pain of torn rib cartilage, a broken rib, a separated shoulder, and a punctured lung.
He was back on the ice Saturday night, right in the mix against the Red Wings, as he skated with new linemate Loui Eriksson in a 2-0 Boston win. And while there is more chemistry to gain with Eriksson and Brad Marchand, Bergeron passed his first test, looking like his old self.
“I felt pretty good, feeling good now too [after the game] so it was good to get that first one out of the way and I can move forward,” Bergeron said.
He said that, for him, the biggest test was going to be battling in the corners for the puck. He had already tested himself on faceoffs in practice, and was feeling confident in those situations.
“I think it was more the corners and the battles in front,” Bergeron said. “Trying to reach out for pucks and stuff like that.”
And, he said, there were no issues.
Nor were there issues with the line, which got better as the game went on, after struggling a bit Tuesday in Baltimore with Alexander Khokhlachev as the center.
“It was a good line for us tonight,” coach Claude Julien said.
“You saw Marsh was better, and Loui was able to be seen a little bit more with Bergy on that line.
“Bergy makes a big difference. He brings something to the line he’s with. We had a better idea of that line.”
The trio has been eagerly awaiting the chance to play in a game together, to build on what they’ve done in practice the previous 10 days.
“I don’t need to talk about the chemistry with Marshy because we’ve had that for quite a while now,” Bergeron said.
“I thought the three of us on the forecheck were really good, causing some turnovers and we just need to finish the plays. I hit the crossbar on one of the plays, a couple other plays in front the puck was loose, but we just couldn’t get it.
“But still I thought our battle around the net was pretty good.”
Until last night, the linemates had been trying to figure each other out — likes and dislikes on the ice, thought processes, positioning. And Bergeron and Eriksson had already seen a lot of themselves in the other.
“[Eriksson] plays like me a little bit, so sometimes we’re thinking the same way, we’re at the same spot,” Bergeron said earlier in the week. “So we’ve just got to find ways to read off each other and not do the same job together. So it’s about reading each other.”
Former linemate Tyler Seguin was quite different on the ice from Bergeron. They didn’t think the same or play the same or react the same. Nor has Eriksson ever played with a teammate that presents those same issues.
“That’s why we have all these games and all the practices, to figure out where we should be and how we should play,” Eriksson said.
“He’s really good at getting pucks. He plays pretty similar to how I play, so there’s a lot of comparison there.”
Time and games will help smooth much of this over. They got the chance to start that on Saturday, and were pleased with the results.
“It’s the first game, but we’ve got to keep improving and keep communicating and things will keep getting better,” Bergeron said.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.