Exactly one week from today the Bruins sixth Stanley Cup Championship banner will be raised to the rafters of Boston’s TD Garden, and then the puck will drop and the 2011-12 season will begin, but as of now, it’s not clear as to which Bruins will earn the final two roster spots, and be on the roster when the black and gold begin their title defense against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Nathan Horton, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin, Chris Kelly, Beniot Pouliot, Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell, and Daniel Pallie are 12 forwards expected to crack the opening night lineup.
Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference, Adam McQuaid, and Joe Corvo are the six defensemen expected to suit up next Thursday against the Flyers.
Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask will be the two goalies dressed, which leaves two open roster spots that has four guys battling for an NHL job.
Jordan Caron and veteran Chris Clark have been neck and neck in the battle for the Bruins 13th forward spot.
Caron made the Bruins after a great camp last year, the 20 year-old Caron played in 23 games with the Bruins last season and had seven points (3 goals). The former first round draft pick by the Bruins in 2009 has come into this years’ camp bigger and stronger and has brought a better hockey sense after a full season of professional hockey. (28 points in 47 games for Providence)
Bruins head coach Claude Julien has noticed the improvement and has been very pleased with what he as seen from the talented forward.
“Well you know, I just think he’s been skating very well and we know he did that last year too. You know he started off and skated really well and then somehow his game kind of went down a little bit – downwards for the level of the NHL. So we thought his skating needed to be better and so far he’s shown that he’s capable of skating, even on the top line and with some skill and speed. I think he’s done a great job. I like the way — again we talk about competing — he’s gotten to the corners and he’s used his strength and his body to come out of there with the puck” said Julien. “He’s done a great job in front of the net, he’s had a lot of great opportunities as well shot-wise and stuff like that so he’s doing a lot of things that has really put him in a real good position. I think right now he’s got his foot in the door more than he’s got the other one out”.
We all know how much Julien loves his veterans, and Chris Clark has done nothing but impress making it hard on the Bruins management to make a decision.
“Well I’ve always had a lot of respect for him. I said earlier, a day or two ago, that I’ve coached against him since the American League when he was in St. John. He was with the Flames and he was a real good player then. He came into the NHL and he’s become a captain on the teams that he’s played with so his leadership quality, and what I liked about Chris was that you knew he was going to play hard every night and to play against a guy like that, that’s not an easy thing, but you learn to respect and like those kind of players. I’ve always admired that from him and that’s what he’s shown here again.”
Spending the past two seasons in Columbus with the Blue Jackets, Clark has 20 combined points in those two years, and has not scored double digit goals since he had 30 when in Washington during the 2006-07 season.
From the way things look and sound, Caron has a slight advantage over Clark with one week to go, but there is still plenty of time for Clark to overtake the youngster.
The seventh and final defensemen battle has been a good one; it’s basically down to Steven Kampfer, and Matt Bartkowski.
After a slow start to camp, Kampfer bounced back with two good back-to-back games against the Montreal Canadiens. Kampfer played in 38 games for the Bruins last year and registered 10 points (5 goals).
Bartkowski certainly has been the better of the two, but not by much. The 6 foot 1 inch defensemen has been a big physical force in the Bruins preseason lineup thus far, and has shown some sparks on the power play, an area we all know the Bruins struggled with last season.
I think [Bartkowski] is as good a candidate as anybody else at staying here,” said Julien. “Right now, there are a couple of guys that are there that are pretty even and each bring a certain element we like. So now it’s a matter of them battling for that spot. It’s pretty obvious that both those guys were on our radar last year. Either they were call-ups or they were there for part of the season. It’s that same battle that happened last year.”
All four guys bring different skills to the table, and it seems like they all will see NHL action throughout various points this year, so don’t be too disappointed if the guy you want to see make the team is not there opening night.
If you ask me, Caron and Bartkowski make the roster, and will be the healthy scratches next week.