The Bruins will play their next-to-last preseason game against Ottawa tonight at TD Garden, and one of the position battles we expected to unfold during training camp is going down to the wire.
We all expected that when it came to a seventh defensemen, the Bruins were going to be picking between second-year pros Steven Kampfer and Matt Bartkowski. That competition has not disappointed.
While they’re similar players, there are subtle differences, including their shot side (Bartkowski/left, Kampfer/right) and amount of NHL experience, as Kampfer skated in 38 games for the Stanley Cup champions and nearly got his name etched on its side. In my Boston Herald story today, I broke down the battle that could come down to the last minute before the 3 p.m. EST deadline on October 5 to determine the opening-night roster.
Of course, there remains the slight chance that the Bruins could swing a trade or demote someone from among the veteran top-six to make room for both Kampfer and Bartkowski. I think there’s a much better chance the Bruins would do this to make room for a forward than for a defenseman at this point, especially considering the ease with which the Bruins could send Kampfer and/or Bartkowski to the Providence (AHL) farm club. Defensemen are too valuable a commodity to give up on anyone at this point in a season, plus from the action I’ve seen none of the blueliners has been victimized much by the Cup hangover yet.
Still, general manager Peter Chiarelli didn’t want to comment on whether there were established vets on the bubble, and head coach Claude Julien said the following:
“Well I think you guys all know that every year we’ve had guys step in and we’ve had guys that were released or sent down and that’s not going to change. I don’t think that the organization as a whole wants that to happen. I think we’ve taken pride in giving the players that deserve to be here that opportunity and we’ve tried to stay away from politics of the sport and go with the guys that deserve it.”
So with a week to go before the season-opener against Philadelphia, this is where the Bruins’ defense corps stands. Up front, the situation is just as messy with Chris Clark, Jordan Caron, Max Sauve and even Lane MacDermid pushing for a job. At least there’s no lack of excitement to go with the anticipation of the start of the new Bruins season.