Patrik Berglund looks to be the secret weapon in St. Louis

If you were to ask people right now who their pick for the sneaky, surprise team in the Western Conference might be this season, the St. Louis Blues is the one team you’re going to hear a lot. With a healthy Jaroslav Halak in goal and with guys like David Backes, Chris Stewart, and T.J. Oshie to lead the way at forward and growing into better players with coach Davis Payne at the helm, some feel that that’s a good mix to shake things up in the West.

One guy who might be the key to seeing the Blues get things turned around for good is Patrik Berglund. The Swedish center is coming off his best season as a pro in 2010-2011. After three seasons in the league, the Blues are hoping his 22 goal, 30 assist season is the first of many that see his offensive numbers climb. His performance in the 2011 IIHF World Championships (8 goals, 2 assists in nine games) showed that his big regular season wasn’t a fluke.

Lou Korac of In The Slot talked with Berglund and finds out that maturing and growing into the game at the NHL level could be the keys to help him become even more of a factor in helping the Blues bounce back into being a perennial playoff team.

Berglund, 23, feels good about where he is as well as the Blues, but he also understands there’s more where that came from. There’s more to achieve and with the effort he’s putting into his progress, boundless opportunities exist.

“I’m not satisfied. I want to keep developing,” Berglund said. “That’s the only thing I’m thinking about when I’m working now.

“I had a great year, but I don’t want to stop. I want to be … this year, in five years, I want to be a player that is one of the best in the league. That’s my goal. I know I can get there if I work hard and things go my way. That’s my belief. I think it’s important to have those expectations on yourself and not just be happy you had a good year. … If I play well all over the ice, the results will show. We’ll see where it takes me.”

Korac sees Berglund lining up with Oshie and Stewart on one of the Blues’ scoring lines. With that kind of mix on one line and with Backes, Andy McDonald, Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Alexander Steen finding their way around elsewhere on other lines, the Blues could indeed be a handful to deal with.

If Berglund can have another 50+ point season and improve upon what he did last year, it’s a huge lift for a team that’s missing one of their other young and talented guys in David Perron thanks to his recovery from a concussion going slowly. The forwards for St. Louis look to be good and strong and if they can get solid play from their defense, the Blues very well could be a surprise team in the West.

With the likes of Chicago and Detroit being in their division along with an always difficult Nashville team and an improved Columbus squad, it’s going to be difficult. That said, the Pacific Division showed last season that everyone in a division can have a good season and if the Central Division works out to be as tough as it’s setting up to be, the Blues mix of youth and veteran experience could make them a fun team to watch.

Bergeron may need surgery for sports hernia

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Patrice Bergeron says he may need offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia that he dealt with all year.

Bergeron missed the Bruins’ first three games of the 82-game schedule with a lower-body injury; however, he managed to play the next 79, plus six more in the playoffs as Boston fell to Ottawa in the first round.

Typically, a sports hernia is first treated with rest and physical therapy. Then, if that doesn’t solve the problem, surgery may be required.

It was a frustrating start to the season for the 31-year-old center. Bergeron had just 24 points in 49 games before the All-Star break, but he finished with a respectable 53 points in 79 games, including 21 goals.

Bergeron could win his fourth Selke Trophy in June. He’s a finalist for the award, along with Ryan Kesler and Mikko Koivu.

In other Bruins injury news, Brandon Carlo had a concussion and Torey Krug an MCL injury. Neither d-man was able to suit up for the B’s in the postseason, though Krug was close to returning.

Defenseman Adam McQuaid, hurt in Game 2 against the Sens, had a neck injury.

No Patrick Kane for U.S. at Worlds

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Tough day for USA Hockey.

After learning that prized Toronto rookie Auston Matthews was skipping the World Hockey Championships, the organization was informed Chicago star Patrick Kane would also be passing on the event.

Kane hasn’t often been able to participate in the Worlds, given he and the Blackhawks have advanced past the first playoff round in five of the last nine years. In fact, the last time Kane played at the Worlds was in 2008, when Chicago missed the playoffs entirely.

(Kane had 10 points in seven games for the Americans that year, en route to a sixth-place finish.)

Matthews cited fatigue as one of the main reasons he passed on this year’s tourney, and it’s safe to assume Kane did the same. He appeared in all 82 games for the ‘Hawks this year, four more in the playoffs, and also represented the U.S. at the World Cup of Hockey.

USA Hockey did manage to secure the services of two important players last week, however. Both Calgary sniper Johnny Gaudreau and Buffalo sophomore Jack Eichel agreed to come aboard.

Gaborik has procedure for ‘chronic’ knee issue, questionable for camp

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Yesterday, new Kings GM Rob Blake told reporters the club wouldn’t be buying out Marian Gaborik’s contract, because the veteran winger had undergone a medical procedure.

Today, the club shed more light on the situation.

L.A. announced that Gaborik recently underwent an “in-depth medical procedure for a chronic issue related to his left knee,” adding the 35-year-old would be questionable for the start of training camp.

Gaborik’s had left knee problems dating back to 2013, when he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He missed nearly 20 games during the ’13-14 campaign, then had more knee troubles at the tail end of ’15-16 (with the Kings).

Since injured players can’t be bought out of their contracts, Gaborik could very well open the year on LTIR, providing the Kings with some much-needed cap space.

And though Blake said next season would “be a clean slate for Marian to come in and prove himself,” there has to be some question if he’ll return.

Gaborik struggled through this season, scoring just 10 goals in 56 games while missing extensive time with a foot injury suffered at the World Cup. Health issues have dogged him throughout his 17-year career, and he’s only dressed in 110 of 164 games over the last two seasons.

Because of this, his contract has become an albatross. Signed by ex-GM Dean Lombardi, Gaborik’s seven-year, $34.125 million deal still has four years remaining, at a $4.875M cap hit. Gaborik would be 39 by the time the deal expires on July 1, 2021.

In other L.A. injury news, three players also underwent medical procedures recently. Tyler Toffoli and Derek Forbort had knee surgery, while Alec Martinez had “a minor medical procedure for a chronic issue related to his groin.” All three are expected to be ready for camp, however.

Blackhawks’ Anisimov suffered high-ankle sprain in mid-March

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Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov was not himself in the playoffs, and by the fourth game against the Predators his ice time was limited to just 14:18.

It turns out he had a pretty good excuse. Anisimov suffered a high-ankle sprain on March 14 against the Montreal Canadiens, and that’s a tough injury to overcome in less than a month.

Anisimov missed the rest of the regular season with the injury. He returned for the playoffs but failed to register a single point in four losses to Nashville.

“Being away for that time period and coming right back into the playoffs, obviously you’re not as sharp as you want to be,” Anisimov’s agent told the Daily Herald’s John Dietz.