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BRUINS MUST REPLACE TOP PLAYOFF PERFORMER

Chris Kelly plays on Patrice Bergeron's line. But Boston knows no one player can fill the center's many roles.

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron took another step in his recovery from a mild concussion Saturday, skating on his own before the team's practice.

But with his return likely not until later in the Eastern Conference final against Tampa Bay, Boston must replace its top playoff scorer and faceoff man.

Bergeron did a little bit of everything for the Bruins, including playing on both special teams units. So center Chris Kelly, who stepped in for Bergeron on the second line Saturday, said it will take more than one player to fill his skates.

"I don't think there's any added pressure on myself. I'm just going to go out and play," Kelly said before Game 1. "We have a great group here; a lot of capable guys that can step up and play big minutes. It'll be a great challenge for everyone."

Kelly, an eight-year veteran acquired from the Senators in February, was the center of attention last week as he joined Bergeron's line with right wing Mark Recchi and rookie Brad Marchand. Kelly does not have the offensive skills of Bergeron, who has 12 points (two goals, 10 assists).

But like Bergeron, he's a smart, two-way player, a reason the Bruins believe he will fit right in. Kelly also has surprised by adding seven points, including four goals, this playoffs and was a plus-7 entering Saturday.

"Kelly is a great all-around forward," center Rich Peverley said. "You can't replace a guy like Bergie, but he does play like Bergie. He's really good in the defensive zone. He can generate scoring chances out of his zone. He can (penalty kill). He can (go on the power play). He does all the above, and we need other players to step up.

"And I think he'll be one of the guys that will."

Bruins coach Claude Julien said Bergeron, who suffered the injury in Game 4 against the Flyers, is "on the right track" in coming back.

He acknowledged that while he's confident in Kelly, he is ready to move players around.

"(Bergeron) is such a big part of the team right now. He's playing so well leading the team in so many different areas," Marchand said.

"He's definitely going to be missed out there. We just have to make sure we step up a little more and kind of fill in for him until he gets back."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

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