Bergeron, Kesler at the center of the battle

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Bergeron, Kesler at the center of the battle

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER Patrice Bergeron has plenty to play for heading into Wednesday nights Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The 25-year-old center is back where he helped Team Canada capture the Gold Medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and back in that winning feeling. The city of Vancouver will always remind Bergeron of that joyous experience, which ended with an overtime victory over the United States, and theres a special feeling thats difficult for him to explain when he steps footinto the Rogers Center.

Those memories I'll never forget, said Bergeron, who also ownsa World Junior Championship ona hockey resume that rivals Charlie Sheen for winning. Obviously having a chance to win a gold medal on Canadian soil in Vancouver was something special. Obviously it's some memories and, like I said, I'll never forget. It's fun to come back here.

At the same time, we have a job to do. It's about making sure we concentrate on Game 1, and don't worry about anything else. For me it's about just going out there and playing my game.

There are other things that should be getting Bergerons engine even more revved up than past glory in Vancouver, however. Opposing center Ryan Kesler is a player with whom Bergeron is often grouped when it comes to categorizing elite centers. Both are up for the Selke Trophy, given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game, but Bergeron will likely lose the award to Kesler when the final votes are tabulated in Las Vegas. There's no doubt that's on his mind with a unique opportunity to change minds of everyone on the national stage with a strong performance in the Finals.

I think he's a great two-way forward, said Bergeron of Kesler. He's a great player. To be compared to him is nice. At the same time, I'll try to be myself. I'm not even worrying about the comparison. To me, it's about going out there, playing my game.

That being said, he does play a two-way game. He brings a lot to the table . . . Great player.

Its no secret Bergeron values the Selke Trophy, and hes performed well in showdowns with fellow Selke favorites. Bergeron badly outplayed Chicago's Jonathan Toews in late March, and finished with an assist, a plus-2 and seven shots on net in 20:36 of ice time while shutting down Toews and Co. all evening long in a Bruins shutout victory at TD Garden. There was a bit of an attitude in Bergeron's game during that 60 minutes against Chicago, and there's little doubt the Bergie fireshould also be there against Vancouver.

That kind of unending effort should be expected against Kesler, and many of Bergerons teammates are viewing their one-on-one battle as one of the key matchups in the series. He'll need everything he can muster in a battle against his Vancouver mirror image over the next two weeks.

That should be a battle, said Zdeno Chara. Patrice is a guy that always gives everything he has, does such a great job on the faceoff circle and always gives the team everything he has. Kesler brings a lot of same things to the table. That will be something Bergeron will really use as a challenge."

Coach Claude Julien spoke about the BergeronKesler matchup but didnt delve into details of their anticipatedhead-to-head battles, given the B'splan appears to beBergeron matchingup against the Sedin twins to start the series. Still, its hard to imagine the two wont be clashing on big faceoff draws once the Finals get going in earnest.

I have a feeling that Kesler is not going to necessarily be looking at Bergeron much unless it's those big faceoffs at key times," said Julien. "Somehow I have the feeling that both coaches will probably look for something else. If it isn't, then so be it.

But I think when you look at those two players, what they bring to their team are very similar. Patrice has done everything for our team that Kesler has done for his. There's no doubt that you have two players here that are key to their team, guys that you can use in all kinds of situations. For us, it's keying on Patrice being as good as he can be. As I mentioned before, it will be interesting to see the difference between those two, what they bring to the game in these finals.

Both players are known for their strength, both mentally and physically, and their heaviness on the puck. Kesler had little tosay during Tuesday's media day in Vancouver, and seemed more about doing his talking on the ice.

"You know what, for me, I just focus on what I do well . . . and make them adjust, said Kesler. I have a couple things that work. I'm going to try 'em and see what works against 'em.

Kesler has 18 points in the playoffs and Bergeron has 15 points in 16 games. Bergeron is leading the field in faceoff percentage, winning 62.3 percent of his draws to Keslers 54.7 percent.

Both players are so important to their teams, its no stretch to say that whichever one of the two becomes the more dominant physical factor both offensively and defensively will be guiding their team to Stanley Cup victory.

If the Olympic results of last winter hold true again in the Finals for Bergeron, he'll be leaving Vancouver with a familiar winning feeling. And Kesler will be left feeling . . . well . . . something else again.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Former Bruins star Ray Bourque 'in unfamiliar territory'

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Former Bruins star Ray Bourque 'in unfamiliar territory'

ANDOVER, Mass. — Former Boston Bruins star Ray Bourque, who's facing a drunken driving charge, says he accepts the responsibility of his actions.

Bourque was charged Friday night with operating under the influence of alcohol and following too closely. He posted bail and was released.

"For the first time in my life, I find myself in unfamiliar territory," Bourque said in a statement released Sunday. "I am not happy about the situation I put myself into."

Andover Police Chief Patrick Keefe said the 55-year-old Bourque was arrested about 11:30 p.m. after his Mercedes-Benz rear-ended a minivan in a construction zone in the city. No injuries were reported.

Bourque is to be arraigned in Lawrence District Court. Police haven't provided a date.

According to The Boston Globe, Bourque currently owns Tresca, a restaurant on Boston's North End.

"Everything is on track" with Bruins prospect Zboril

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"Everything is on track" with Bruins prospect Zboril

Little more than a year after he was drafted in the middle of the first round by the Boston Bruins, some are whispering that 19-year-old Jakub Zboril isn’t going to live up to advanced billing. Clearly the Czech defenseman took a step back for the Saint John Sea Dogs after being taken 13th by the Bruins in last year’s draft, and dropped to six goals and 20 points in 50 games in the QMJHL while watching second round pick Jeremy Lauzon pass him by on the prospect hype chart.

Perhaps the more concerning thing have been the whispers about an erratic work ethic and bad habits in Zboril’s game, a couple of criticisms that haven’t exactly gone away since the Bruins signed him to a contract last summer following development camp. Bruins assistant general manager Scott Bradley was asked about those concerns with the young D-man as he heads into an important training camp with Boston this fall, and didn’t seem all that concerned about his first round pick being a “bust.”

“I think his offensive production was down, and that he struggled a little bit coming out of the gate” said Bradley of Zboril, who had 13 goals and 33 points in 44 games during his first season in the Quebec Major Junior League prior to getting drafted by Boston. “But he had a strong playoff. Everybody forgets that he’s a gritty guy, and a strong player that moves the puck. The thing that stands out about him are that his numbers are down from last year.

“But everything is on track with him. He’s going to come to camp and hopefully shines, and has a good year this year…patience.

“I think it’s great if the second rounders are on par with him: the [Brandon] Carlos and the [Jeremy] Lauzons. If you look at the whole of our draft last year you can’t rule out the first eight picks that they might play [in the NHL]. We’re excited. Donnie and I were at the Memorial Cup, and Lauzon raised our eyebrows every night that he played. You’d come away with a good feeling like this kid plays hard, plays the Bruins style, moves the puck and is tough. Obviously [you had to like] what Carlo did when he was brought in [to Providence] at the end. It just bodes well for what we have coming this year. Zboril and Lauzon are probably going back to junior, but Carlo is going to get a long look.”

The young Czech D-man is still at a point where his stock can still shoot higher than it’s ever been with a good showing at training camp, and a strong season for the Sea Dogs entering into his professional hockey career. But he can’t afford to go through another down season, or that talk of him being a first round bust is only going to get louder and stronger.