ESTERO — Since early on in the season, Florida Everblades forwards Kevin Bergin and Daniel Sisca have formed two-thirds of a very dangerous line.
Adding Reggie Berg to the mix has made defending that line nearly impossible.
The 29-year-old longtime Everblade is second all-time in scoring with 240 career points (111 goals, 129 assists) and was tied with Matt Demarski for the most goals heading into Saturday night's game against Gwinnett.
Berg had missed three months with a serious wrist injury suffered during the first period of the season-opener against Las Vegas but has been on fire since returning to the lineup two weeks ago. He has scored 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) in nine games, including assists on both of Bergin's goals in Friday night's 4-3 shootout win.
"Reggie always has put up points, he's a smart guy,'' Bergin said. "You just have to know where he's going to be and he's going to find you. That's always been part of his game, he can make great passes, and he completes me very good because he's got the quickness that I don't have and he can support me well. I can protect the puck and having him back gives us a lot of depth, because they can't cover one line they have to cover three now.''
Describing the first part of his return as being like his training camp, Berg was thrown into the fray with this latest stretch of eight games in a 12-day span. The fact that these games were against division opponents and have playoff implications made it even more important for Berg to rediscover his scoring touch.
Over a six-year stint with Florida in the ECHL, Berg has played on many different lines, some very potent and others that didn't quite click. Although it's still a little early to truly say where he would place this line in the pecking order, Berg has been pleased.
"Kevin's definitely a lot more than a one-dimensional player,'' Berg said. "He's got the physical side, he's big, he's a strong guy and obviously he can fight, we all know that. It's not his primary role for him but he can, so he's a difference maker in that way. He's also a difference maker on the scoreboard, I think he's pretty close to a point a game (21 goals, 27 assists for 48 points in 50 games), and the last few weeks you really notice a difference in his attitude and demeanor.''
Sisca is the team's leading scorer with 61 points (20 goals, 41 assists) and began the season on a line with Steve Saviano and Paul Cabana, which at the time looked to be among the league's best. But Saviano was called up to Lowell in the American Hockey League a couple of times and Cabana has been banged up, so Sisca was moved around, teaming up with Bergin and Ernie Hartlieb for a long spell.
Head coach Gerry Fleming decided to try something different on the recent road trip and appears to have found a connection with the Berg, Bergin and Sisca line, something Sisca saw right away.
"I think Reggie would be a great fit on anybody's line in this league,'' said Sisca, who was the only player to score in Friday night's shootout. "He's got tremendous skill, great vision on the ice, can make a pass in any situation and can bury the puck, so he helps our line out. Everybody was talking about once Reggie he came back he'd have his 40 points in 20 games, and seeing him in the preseason you could see that. Having him back, especially now, gives our team a big boost.''
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Sisca and Bergin have developed a method of nonverbal communication because they know where each other is on the ice. Bergin has acted like Sisca's bodyguard out there at times and the size difference -- Bergin is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and Sisca stands 5-9, 160 -- has created quite a visual.
As for how the trio is looked upon by their teammates, coach and opponents, it's a combination of respect and intrigue.
"A lot of guys are confused on the bench with how close our names are, Berg, Bergin, even Gerry is a little confused out there sometimes,'' Bergin joked. "But we've had some success and we like playing with each other. We're three guys that like passing the puck a lot, we're unselfish, and it's been going very good. It seems like the chemistry came very quick and hopefully we keep going that way for the rest of the season and carry it into the playoffs.''
BY THE NUMBERS: Rookie goaltender Kevin Nastiuk cracked the ECHL's leaderboard for his position this week, reaching third in the rankings for save percentage at .927. He's actually the active leader with Long Beach's Jaroslav Halak (.932) and Alaska's Chris Beckford-Tseu (.929) both on call-up with the AHL. Nastiuk's teammate, Phil Osaer, is second in the league in shootout percentage at .850 behind Dayton's Michael Ayers (.906), who also is on call-up.
Sisca remains in second among the league's rookies in scoring, assists, power play points (28) and power play assists (21), and leads in shots (187) shorthanded points (5) and goals (3). He is third overall in power play points and seventh overall in scoring. Veteran defenseman Cory Neilson still leads all defensemen in shots (181), is sixth in scoring with 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) and third in minor penalty minutes (49).
Florida ranks fourth overall on the power play at 22.0 percent and fourth on the penalty kill at 85.2 percent, and with Friday night's paid crowd of 7,019, took over the league lead in attendance with an average of 6,063 in 27 outings.