Notebook: Bergevin takes out Lemieux on first day
Mario Lemieux’s first day of training camp started with a bang – literally.
Lemieux was cutting across the ice during a drill when he got an unexpected hip check, accidentally of course, from defenseman Marc Bergevin. Both Lemieux’s legs went up in the air as the captain went tumbling.
“When I saw Mario doing a kickstand I was hoping it was Bergie that was under there, that’s all I can say,” coach Eddie Olczyk said. “Then I saw the big grin on both their faces. It loosened everybody up. It loosened me up, that’s for sure.”
Lemieux reported himself to be still healthy after the fall. Bergevin, however, was due for a few words from the owner.
“I’ll have to talk to him,” he said, smiling.
Lemieux identified Aleksey Morozov as his most likely left winger to start the season and Martin Straka as his right wing. And while he wouldn’t go so far as to say the decision was his and his alone, he made it clear that he and Olczyk will discuss his linemates throughout the season. But that’s not a situation unique to Olczyk. Lemieux said it’s been that way with every coach he’s ever had, even Scotty Bowman.
“(Olczyk) wants me to communicate with him,” Lemieux said. “If I feel more comfortable with a player he wants me to tell him and he’ll make a decision based on that.”
Olczyk said that additional scenarios could develop as far as Lemieux’s linemates, however, based on what they see during the exhibition games.
“Whoever ends up playing with Mario, you’re going to need two players who know how to play off of him,” he said. “Then there’s that factor of trying to force the puck to him when there’s two guys around him. When there’s one guy around him, you’d probably better get him the puck. I know from experience. If there’s two guys around him, well, chances are you’re going to have to make a play yourself.”
SECOND LINE WIDE OPEN
Lemieux’s linemates are just one part of the equation, however. Only two players remaining from last year’s roster reached double digits in goals last year – Straka, who had 18, and rookie Ramzi Abid, who scored 10 with the Phoenix Coyotes. One of Olczyk’s goals for training camp is to identify players who can give the captain a little help in the scoring department this year.
“Whatever line Mario’s on, that’s the go-to line, no doubt,” he said. “But we’d like to be able to give him that support. He’s the best player in the world, but he needs help. Whether that’s guys on his line or lines playing under him, we need to give him that support and it’s up to us to find the right combination of guys.”
Lemieux said he hasn’t thought about his schedule for playing preseason games yet. … The annual training camp tournament begins today with A vs. B from 9-10:15 a.m. and B vs. C from 10:30-11:45 a.m.
Karen Price is a former freelancer.