December 30, 2009

Bergy, Krejci, Strum get Olympic call

Patrice Bergeron (photo: Getty)

BOSTON – Two years ago, Patrice Bergeron’s career was in doubt, as he missed the final 72 games of the 2007-08 season after suffering a severe concussion against Philadelphia.

Today, as the Bruins prepare take on those same Flyers in the Winter Classic at Fenway Park on Friday, Bergeron is back on top of the hockey world, having been named on Wednesday to the Team Canada roster for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver in February.

“I’m pretty happy, pretty excited about it,” said Bergeron, who admitted it hadn’t really sunk in yet while speaking before beating the Thrashers 4-0 Wednesday night. “It was hard to believe today. It was kind of overwhelming a bit. My family is here for the New Year so I’m happy to have them with me today and very honored, very happy. It was a great feeling.”

Bergeron is no stranger to international competition, having won gold at the World Championships in 2004 and the World Junior Championships in 2005, when he was tournament MVP after leading the field with 5-8-13 totals in six games. He also played in the 2006 World Championships, putting up 6-8-14 totals.

But this will be Bergeron’s first Olympics. He was not even invited to the evaluation camp in Calgary this summer, as he struggled last year while returning from a severe concussion that ended his 2007-08 season after just 10 games. Bergeron has proven he’s back this year though, leading the Bruins with 10-19-29 totals and playing the kind of solid two-way hockey that is invaluable in international competition. Bergeron’s versatility in being able to play either center or wing certainly helped his chances as well.

“I’ve done that,” said Bergeron of playing the wing instead of his natural center position. “Actually I did that at the World Championship, playing the wing. I was playing the left wing so yeah I’m obviously aware of that and willing to do whatever to just be on that team.”

Marc Savard, who was also not invited to the evaluation camp, and Milan Lucic, who did attend the camp, were not as fortunate. Neither was named to the team, as both have battled injuries this year.

“To be honest with you, with the way this season went, I didn’t even really think about it,” said Savard. “I knew with the way the season has been going I didn’t really have a chance.”

Savard missed 15 games with a broken foot earlier this year and recently suffered through a five-game point-less streak, the longest drought in his stint with the Bruins. He’s come alive with eight points in his last five games, including two assists Wednesday, but it wasn’t enough to earn a bid to play for Canada. Savard was classy about the decision, praising his teammates who will be going to the Games, especially the inspirational Bergeron.

“For those guys, that’s great,” said Savard. “Bergie’s come back from a lot, so I’m happy for him. And for the other guys, too. It’s great for them to get a chance to represent their country.”

Former Bruin Joe Thornton did make the Canadian club, along with a pair of Philadelphia players the Bruins will see on Friday in Mike Richards and Chris Pronger. Scott Niedermayer will serve as captain, with Pronger, Jarome Iginla and Sidney Crosby serving as alternates.

Bruins center David Krejci will also play in the Olympics, having been named to the Czech Republic team on Wednesday.

“It’s a huge honor,” said Krejci. “I’m very proud and what to do my best. This is what I’ve dreamed about. I always just wanted to play one game for m country. This is really big for me. I’m really excited and very happy.”

This will be Krejci’s first Olympics, though he has played for the Czech Republic in the World Juniors and World championships. He admitted he wasn’t sure he would make the Olympic squad, however, as he got off to a slow start this year after offseason hip surgery. He has just 19 points through 37 games after putting up 73 last year.

Marco Sturm has also slumped at times this year, though he’s currently on one of his patented hot streaks. Still, it was not much of a surprise that he was named to the German squad for his third Olympics.

“It’s a great honor,” said Sturm. “It’s always good to put that German sweater on, especially for the Olympics. I think, especially (with the Games) in Canada, it’s going to be an amazing experience.”

Sturm seemed almost as excited about Bergeron’s selection as his own.

“It’s going to be great for all of us,” said Sturm. “I’m really happy that Bergie gets to go. It’s just going to be a great experience.”

Goalie Tuukka Rask did not make the cut for Finland, who will have Mikka Kiprusoff, Niklas Backstrom and Antero Niittymaki in net, while Bruins captain Zdeno Chara had already been named to the Slovakian team on Tuesday.

Douglas Flynn can be reached at dflynn@hockeyjournal.com.