Recovering Gervais lauds former partner Streit

Recovering Gervais lauds former partner Streit
August 29, 2013, 2:30 pm
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Bruno Gervais served as Mark Streit's former defense partner in Long Island and both find themselves now in orange and black. (AP)

He doesn’t know when or even how it happened, or whether it was an existing injury he had while playing in Tampa Bay that might have gotten progressively worse as a Flyer.

All Bruno Gervais remembers is that sometime late last winter, as the lockout-shortened NHL season was winding down, he woke up one morning with a pain in his right abdomen.

“It was really sore,” Gervais recalled Thursday. “It just got weaker and weaker and the last two or three weeks that I was playing [in March], it was really hard for me. I had no strength at all in my core.”

Little did the 28-year-old defenseman realize, but he had an abdominal tear that would actually worsen by the time the Flyers shut him down on April 12. Four days later, he underwent successful surgery.

“It was a complete tear on the right side,” Gervais said. “Really painful. I could not get a push off [when skating]. I was getting pulled down and I could not resist because I had no strength.

“We tried everything we could to keep me playing, and then it became fairly obvious we had to get something done about it.”

Gervais, who averaged 17 minutes, played just 37 of the 48 games last season with six points and was minus-17 – worst on the club. No doubt the severity of his injury and lack of strength in his lower body greatly impacted his poor play.

“All I know is that it kept getting worse and then everything started to give out [in my abdomen],” he said. “It really held me back. I had never had anything like this.”

Hahnemann University Hospital specialist William Meyers performed the surgery.

“Dr. Meyers did a great job on me,” Gervais said. “Guys fly in here from all over the country to have him do their surgeries. I don’t even feel it anymore.”

It’s good that Gervais is fully healthy because the Flyers' defense went into the offseason as the biggest overall question mark on the club given Kimmo Timonen's right foot fracture, Andrej Meszaros' numerous left shoulder issues, Nick Grossmann’s concussion, and finally, Marc-Andre Bourdon’s post-concussion syndrome.

Of that entire group, only one player – as of now – remains questionable for medical clearance when full training camp opens on Sept. 12 at Wells Fargo Center.

That player is Bourdon, who has shed several pounds via hard workouts over the summer but admits he still has an occasional headache, which may be why he still doesn’t have full medical clearance to play.

Of the seven defensemen on the Flyers' opening roster last January, only two finished the season: Luke Schenn and Kurtis Foster. Thirteen players were used on the blue line – the most in the Peter Laviolette era.

Over the summer, former Islanders captain Mark Streit was brought in via trade to bolster the weakest position on the club, while Foster, Andreas Lilja, and Kent Huskins went un-signed.

The competition for a roster spot this fall is going to be keen, especially between Mark Alt, who the club is very high on, and Oliver Lauridsen, who filled in exceptionally well when pressed into a starter’s role last March.

“We have a lot of numbers on defense coming into camp and we had to bring in eight or nine guys last year by the end,” Gervais said. “It was that kind of year, and by the end we had one or two guys left. Nobody wants a repeat of last year. And we’re going to need depth, too.”

Gervais is excited for Streit’s arrival.

“He was my partner for a little over a year on the Islanders,” Gervais said. “A lot of people talk about his age (35), but he’s not what his age seems. He has a lot left in him.

“He was a terrific team leader and captain. And he just plays. He was averaging close to 30 minutes with the Islanders. He’s going to mean so much to this team.”

For Gervais, this will be a fresh start for him with no guarantees.

“It’s like that every year,” he said with a smile.