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Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron contributes heavily on the offensive end

TAMPA — Marc-Andre Bergeron's five-game points streak ended Saturday in the Lightning's 3-0 victory over the Sabres. He didn't even get a shot on goal.

But the Tampa Bay defenseman didn't seem to mind.

"Absolutely not," Bergeron said at the St. Pete Times Forum. "This is a team game."

But there still is room to acknowledge personal accomplishment, and no Lightning player has done more this season, relative to last season, than Bergeron.

He has a team-best nine points on two goals and seven assists, and after eight games he already is one point ahead of his total for the 23 games he played in 2010-11 after signing in January as a free agent.

He is tied among defensemen for the league lead in points, tied for 10th in the league overall and is averaging 18:47 of ice time, his most since the 19:07 he averaged in 2006-07 with the Oilers and Islanders.

"It's obviously a surprise," Bergeron said of his offensive outburst. "It's not something you expect or are focusing on."

"He's just playing with confidence," fellow defenseman Victor Hedman said. "He makes plays out there. He's poised with the puck, and he has one of the best shots in the league."

Bergeron, 31, always has been an exceptional offensive player.

In 2000-01, he had 42 goals and 101 points in 69 games for Shawinigan of the junior Quebec league. He has 79 goals (43 on the power play) and 211 points in 430 NHL games, and in 2009-10 he had 13 goals and 34 points in 60 games for the Canadiens before a crushing injury to his right knee ended his season and required reconstructive surgery.

Bergeron spent the summer of 2010 rehabbing and wasn't cleared to practice until December, so it wasn't surprising he struggled after signing.

Spending last summer in the gym gave him a foundation for this season's success, he said, and signing a new two-year deal in June gave him peace of mind.

Bergeron also received a commitment from coach Guy Boucher the team would work with him to improve his defense, which still is a work in progress (he is minus-1) but miles ahead of where he was last season.

Always a battler, Bergeron, 5 feet 9, 198 pounds, is more diligent about closing gaps on puck-carriers and is better picking his spots to engage offensively. That not only keeps him in better defensive position, it puts him in situations in the attacking zone with a higher chance of success.

"Consistency in doing simple plays" is what Boucher said he wants from Bergeron, "to wait for opportunities rather than trying to force them."

"I've talked with Guy quite a bit," Bergeron said. "He made me understand that there are things I need to do, and by doing those things, it's going to give the coaches confidence in me. I'm just trying to keep it simple and not force the play too much."

Ultimately, though, Bergeron is a points producer with a shot that can make you say "Wow."

"Points are something, but it doesn't always tell if you're playing good or bad," Bergeron said. "Some games you don't get anything and you're actually playing really well."

Still, he added, "It's better than being minus-15 with zero points."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron contributes heavily on the offensive end 10/23/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 24, 2011 12:01am]
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