TAMPA — When it was brought up to Lightning coach Guy Boucher the other day how well Vinny Lecavalier and Simon Gagne are playing together, he was quick to point out the unsung catalyst of the second line.
"You're forgetting Bergenheim there," Boucher said, smiling.
Left wing Sean Bergenheim, 26, doesn't rack up the points — or press — like his All-Star counterparts, but his speed and grit help the line create opportunities and put pressure on defensemen.
Bergenheim, who has also played on the power play and penalty kill, "does it all," Boucher said. And lately he has been one of the team's top performers.
Case in point: Boucher said the coaching staff has its own plus-minus rating system for tracking times a player contributes positively and negatively to scoring chances. Over the past two weeks, Bergenheim is plus-16. The next-best player is plus-9.
"That's enormous," Boucher said. "(Bergenheim) is one of those guys who makes it happen. He takes it deep. He takes it to the net with the puck, without the puck, and therefore opens up the play for the other guys and for himself."
Boucher said the second line has been the team's best over the past five games or so. Lecavalier, who has four goals in his past four games, has been playing very well, and Gagne has been close on several scoring chances. Bergenheim is tied with Lecavalier for fourth on the team with seven goals and fifth with 16 points. He had 23 points last season for the Islanders.
"For anybody to get to play with players … of that caliber, it's an opportunity, because it's a little bit more of an offensive role," Bergenheim said. "You want to show you can chip in a few goals and help the team that way. With players like that, who have proven to be great offensive players, it helps for anybody coming in to that line to also prove he can do it. I think I have, but I have tried to work on that a lot to break out to show I can do more."
One of Bergenheim's biggest assets is his speed. Boucher said that at the beginning of the season, Bergenheim didn't believe in his speed, using it only in spurts. "But right now, every game is pedal to the floor."
Said Lecavalier: "That speed is pretty incredible. He just scares people off. Defensemen really back off and are just afraid, because if I pass it behind them and Bergie's coming, they know they'll get beat.
"He's a smart player, and he can score some goals. He's a very complete guy."
IN NET: Rookie goalie Cedrick Desjardins, who made 27 saves in winning his NHL debut Thursday against Montreal, said he'll get his second straight start tonight against the Rangers.
Boucher said only there was a "big chance" he would start. That Dan Ellis did so well against the Rangers in a shootout win Dec. 23 made him pause, Boucher said, but Desjardins "deserves it." Plus, Boucher said the teams wants to look at Desjardins, who will go back to AHL Norfolk when Mike Smith (knee) is ready in a week or so.
"It's an opportunity," Desjardins said. "Right now, I've got the ball in my hand, and I just want to keep running with it."
Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.