Since I live in Virginia, I've tried to make myself useful and have gone to see how the Tampa Bay Lightning's AHL affiliate has been doing once a month. They're a two and a half hour drive away from me, otherwise I'd probably see them more than once a month. I was lucky enough this trip to be able to talk to Marc-André Bergeron.
The Norfolk Admirals won this particular game that I attended last Saturday night 3-2 against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who are the New York Islanders AHL affiliate. It was also the Admirals annual breast cancer awareness night - complete with pink ice - and they had their fourth highest attendance ever as an AHL club with 8,103 on hand to watch the game. Dustin Tokarski was in net, and he broke a losing streak with the win.
Bergeron was a +1 on the night, had four shots on goal (the team had a total of 51 shots for the game), and had one penalty for holding in a chippy game.
(Scott M. is a season ticket holder for the Norfolk Admirals, and he was asking questions as well. I've interviewed him, too, and will be posting up his responses later this week in a two-part series.)
How is your knee feeling?
Good! I mean, I'm pretty happy the way it's reacting. I've been skating for a while, but now it's at a higher level. So I was wondering how it would react with contact and everything and it's very good. There's no swelling at all and I don't feel it when I'm out there.
So is it still feeling a little loose...?
No, no - it never felt loose. I never had that feeling. When it was hurt, obviously it wasn't right. But ever since I got the surgery, it's been good - it's nice. It's a very serious injury and it's tough to react so I wanted to make sure that my knee was fine. And it is.
How's life in the AHL treating you?
I mean, it's alright. I understand. I mean, I started playing in January so I can't expect to be right where I need to be. But it's good, I guess, to go through the ladder and start a little slower and get myself ready to jump into the NHL again.
Do you feel like there's more pressure on you being an NHL veteran playing on an AHL team - you've got a lot of experience, especially on the power play - do you feel that there's a little be more pressure on you to help produce? (Scott M. question)
Well, not yet. I think it's still early in the season and I guess they just understand that I'm just coming back from pretty much playing with my friends at home. At the same time, it's something that I've always been proud of doing. We all have our own natural abilities, and this is one of mine. And I don't think about that when I'm out there. I'm being out there and doing what I'm doing....
Having fun? (Scott M. question)
Exactly. More now than ever. I mean, when you go through tough times and some adversity, you realize some stuff. And I sure did that. I have a family, and it was a challenge for all of us. We're not back at it and everybody's happy on my side.
Have you been keeping up on what's going on in Tampa? Like how they're doing?
Yes and no. I mean, I was watching more when I wasn't playing. Because it's a team that we talked a lot...I guess, throughout when I wasn't signed.
And there are a lot of French speaking guys over there and that I know. I know Julien BriseBois, I know Guy Boucher, I know Dan Lacroix. I know a lot of people over there, so it's a team that I have some interest in.
But I'm pretty lucky to sign with that good of an organization. I think that they're really going in the right direction right now. You can tell that it's not a team that's going down; they're going up. And they've been there before and they still have a lot of players that were there.
So signing for me, like having a short season - like it's going to be for me this year - I think I was looking for a team that was going to make the playoffs. And Tampa is probably going to be one of them, unless things turn around. That's why I want to be with these guys.
I know a lot of the guys are probably looking for you to teach them some things. Have you learned anything working with Coach Cooper? Being here, think that will add to your game? (Scott M. question)
[Jon]'s a gentleman - a good gentleman. He has a lot of respect for his players. That's always something that any player is looking for. I mean, it's not the 70s anymore. I think you need to have a good relationship with your players and he understands that. He's a hard coach. And he knows, too, that I'm here for rehabilitation, and he's really good with me.
At the same time, I'm not here to play the coach. I'm just here to have fun and to try to show that I'm going to work hard. I'm not better than them.
Norfolk is playing with Guy Boucher's system, and everybody's been going off about how unique it is. Are you catching up with that? Is that hard to get used to?
I don't think it's hard to get used to. I played it a little bit last year when I was in Hamilton for conditioning at the beginning of the season. That's where I met him [Boucher] and played the system. It's not like rocket science, at the same time, I think if you put a little thinking in your game and that's really it. He's someone who likes to have some energy out there, and he likes the guys to be intense, so I think those are the biggest characteristics you need to have when you're playing for him.
From there, he's also a very smart coach, and he understands his players a lot. So he's going to put you in that position that's going to make you look good. And use your assets instead of just making you look bad, I guess.