Bruins

Battle is on for seventh Bruins' defense spot

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Battle is on for seventh Bruins' defense spot

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- The top six defense spots on the Bruins have been spoken for since the Bruins locked down the summer deal for Joe Corvo, so there isnt a great of mystery when it comes to the blueline crew.

But its likely that the Bruins will carry a seventh defenseman out of training camp since they have plenty of salary cap space and a plan in place to give plenty of rest to all of their players after most of the healthy Bruins skaters played over 100 games last season between the regular season and playoffs.

Steve Kampfer played nearly 40 games for the Bs last season as a puck-moving defenseman before Tomas Kaberle was brought in at the trade deadline, and clearly has the experience advantage over some of the other seventh defensemen candidates. Kampfer appeared to wear down and lose a little confidence as his rookie year progressed with the Bruins last season, but the young skaters has arrived in camp with a renewed vigor.

Fellow young defensemen Matt Bartkowski, Colby Cohen and David Warsofsky have all experienced both and bad moments during training camp, and both Bartkowski and Cohen have stood out particularly. Bartkowski made some rookie mistakes, of course, but hes also executed plenty of solid offensive players while showing off his seam passing during the power play.

Cohen has similarly shown good creativity, vision and passing skills while working the point, but still has a bit of work to do on the defensive end. Warsofsky has moved the puck ably, but will need to continue learning how to fight off bigger, stronger attackers before hes truly ready for regular NHL duty. All four young defensemen have their strengths and weaknesses and all four young defensemen could benefit from more development time at the AHL level, and thats gotten Julien thinking that a good, old fashioned defensemen rotation might work best for the depth player.

One other name that shouldnt be forgotten: Army officer Zach McKelvie, who was forced to sit out two seasons while completing his military obligation and is really beginning to pick things up. McKelvie is one of the best skaters in training camp and wont shy away from the physical stuff, and those qualities dont along very often.

We want to continue to have a look at those guys, but no doubt. Steven Kampfer was here, Matt Bartkowski was here last year, and they certainly have a little bit of edge in that regard, said Julien. But weve still got McKelvie, I think hes done a fabulous job for a guy that hadnt played in a couple of years. Were kind of monitoring his progression here as we go along.

Colby Cohen is another guy who I thought has good size -- and maybe not the extreme physical player -- but certainly a guy that moves the puck extremely well. There are some guys that are still here: David Warsofsky is another guy that maybe size-wise is not big, but his mobility is extremely good. He can move the puck well. There are a lot of guys still that were looking at. The one thing we know is that those guys are all young players and theyre also easy guys to bring in and send back without the waivers. So it doesnt mean necessarily that it only has to be one guy thats the seventh player. It could be one person, but it doesnt mean it has to be.

For an organization that appeared to hold a bare cupboard of young defensemen just a couple of years ago, the young talent lining up for a reserve role on the Bs roster is nothing to sneeze at. The Bruins defensemen cupboard is now once again full of talent, and this is a big season for many of their young careers.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

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Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

BRIGHTON -- Tuukka Rask is quickly making his way through the concussion protocol and may return to action this weekend.

The Bruins netminder skated with the other injured players ahead of Monday’s main team practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and is on track to rejoin the team at regular practice on Tuesday barring any setbacks in his concussion recovery. That would leave Rask with just a couple of games missed after getting trucked by Anders Bjork at practice last week, and it would give the Bruins back their No. 1 goaltender after Anton Khudobin let in five goals vs. the Sabres on Thursday night.

“He’s in the protocol and progressing well,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’ll probably join us [on Tuesday] for the next step if there are no ill effects from today. That’s a positive. If there are no setbacks, I think Saturday is a more realistic [timetable for a return].”

The hope would be that Rask could start elevating his game when he does return, and play better than the goalie that’s posted the 1-3-0 record, 3.30 goals against average and .882 save percentage thus far this season. But first things first with the recovery to his first career concussion as an NHL goalie, and the set of hurdles that must be passed before Rask is again allowed to jump back into game action as early as this weekend.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Bruins practice with Rask, David Krejci and Noel Acciari all skating prior to practice, Patrice Bergeron staying off ice with a maintenance day and Kevan Miller skating in main practice with a maroon, no-contact jersey:

Marchand-Schaller-Bjork
DeBrusk-Backes-Pastrnak
Agostino-Nash-White
Beleskey-Kuraly-Vatrano

Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Miller-Postma

Khudobin

Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

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Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

BRIGHTON -- Injuries, and some really tough losses, have put a bit of a damper on the start to the Bruins season. But there've also been a couple of unquestioned bright spots.

And one of them is Tim Schaller, who's been a strong, consistent performer in the first couple of weeks of the season. The New Hampshire native -- and lifelong Bruins fan -- was penciled in as a fourth-line winger throughout most of training camp, but he’s played everywhere as injuries have ravaged the B's roster.

The high point was probably centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak (and notching an assist) in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Sabres, and filling in for a late-scratched David Krejci with a very different set of skills. Certainly he’s been a standout for the Bruins with his physicality, including stepping up and fighting man mountain Erik Gudbranson after Gudbranson's nasty boarding hit on Frank Vatrano last week, and he’s also kicked in a couple of goals and three points in seven games thus far this season.

“It’s a reactionary thing, and that’s just in a person,” said Bruce Cassidy of fighting Gudbranson. “It’s a character thing because you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Good for Timmy. That earns a lot of street cred not only in your own locker room, but the other teams notice it. too.

"We know with the goals that he can obviously chip in [offensively] and he’s doing a great job for what we’re asking him to do. He’s probably going to take ownership if he’s out there with some young guys on a line, and if he can be a leader and get that line playing the right way every night that is very valuable to us.”

Schaller’s game to this point is a continuation of what he showed in his first season with the Bruins last year, when the 26-year-old posted 7 goals and 14 points in 59 games while becoming a staple in Boston’s bottom-6 group. He’s once again shown pretty good straight-ahead speed for a big man, and a willingness to take his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame straight to the net.

“I’ve been moving well and I’ve got the two goals, so personally I’m happy [with my game],” said Schaller. “Hopefully others can feed off what I’m trying to do out there, and we get a more well-balanced game [as a team]. I had a good season last year, and what was really good was that I knew that I had more to give. That’s what I’m trying to do this season.

“I can obviously produce more. I had a good start to last season and then I kind of fell off a little bit. So hopefully I can be a little more consistent for this entire year.”

That would be a very good thing for a Bruins team that can use him in a bottom-6 energy role when its roster is healthy, and will fully utilize his versatility in times of injuries and adversity.