Islanders' Defenseman Bergeron Adds Offensive Edge
By Brian Bohl
UNIONDALE, NY- In-season trades are nothing new to Mike Sillinger, who has been traded nine times while playing on an NHL-record 12 different teams.
Perhaps he could give advice to the Islanders newest member: Marc-Andrew Bergeron.
The offensive-minded defenseman was acquired from Edmonton on Sunday in exchange for prospect Denis Grebeshkov. Bergeron made the trip down from Canada in time to play in the Islanders 6-5 victory over the Penguins the next day during a matinee at the Nassau Coliseum.
Bergeron immediately made an impact in his debut, assisting on Viktor Kozlov's first-period goal and again on Chris Simon's tying goal early in the third. He also came close to scoring a goal when his third period slap shot beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury before hitting the post and ricocheting out towards the crease. While he is joining a team tied for the Eastern Conference's last playoff spot entering Tuesday's action, Bergeron said the reality of joining a new organization didn't sink in until the day following the trade.
"I got in late last night. With a 1:00 game, you don't have much time to think about it," said Bergeron, who played his first 189 NHL games with the Oilers over parts of four seasons. "When I woke up this morning, the first thing that came to my mind was 'wow, my new life.'
"It's pretty exciting. Just the new guys around and the coach have been really nice with me. I feel really fortune to have that support already."
Bergeron, 26, is capable of reciprocating that support by assisting a struggling Islanders power play that ranks fourth-from-last in efficiency. When general manager Garth Snow finalized the deal, he brought in a player with a slap shot clocked as high as 103-miles-per-hour.
That type of presence at the point allowed coach Ted Nolan to use Bergeron on the first power play unit against Pittsburgh. It came as no surprise that Kozlov's goal came with the man advantage, as the Isles finished 1-3 on the power play after scoring at just a 15.4 percent clip during the season.
"I thought he was really good for getting over the shock of being traded," Nolan said. "Nobody likes to be traded. To go through those emotions and travel across the country and not really knowing the systems or anybody on the team, I thought he played real well for us."
The 5-10, 197-pound left-handed shot scored eight goals in 55 games with the Oilers- or four more than Tom Poti, who was the Islanders leading scorer among defenseman before the transaction.
In all, Bergeron scored 33 goals while registering 55 assists for Edmonton, the team he started his NHL career with in 2002-03. He also carries post-season experience, playing 18 games during the Oilers' run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season. As part of the team's long-term strategy, the St-Louis-De-France, Canada native is also signed through next season. He is making just under $1 million this season ($969,000), with the Islanders responsible only for the prorated portion of that total worth over the remaining 22 games.
While the two points in his first game with the Isles earned him cheers from the Coliseum crowd, Bergeron said his personal statistics will mean little if his new team doesn't continue to move up the standings and secure a post-season birth.
"It takes a little pressure off my shoulders, but it's going to be a long run," he said. "Those two assists won't mean anything. Some nights I might not get anything [points], but I might be playing even better." Sean Hill, one of the veteran defenseman along with assistant captain Brendan Witt, said the addition of Bergeron after Bruno Gervais went down with an ankle injury will help bolster the team's depth.
"He's an offensive guy with good skill, and he skates well," Hill said after the trade was announced Sunday. "He'll help us break the puck out of our zone, and he'll be a good power-play guy because he moves the puck well. Our power play has been struggling. We definitely could use some help."