MARLBOROUGH Here are five thoughts from tonights preseason opener for the Providence Bruins against the Springfield Falcons at the New England Sports Center with the P-Bruins taking a dominant 4-1 victory. The goals were from Jamie Tardif, Justin Florek, Carter Camper and Matthew Pistilli, who continues to show a little something in the games for Providence.1) Will have more about this later, but Carter Camper is a guy that just keeps making offensive plays. Hes not even close to the biggest, the fastest or the guy with the hardest shot, but he always find himself in the right spot to make a play offensively. He set up a nice goal in Providences first scrimmage with a pass from behind the net, and he scored the Bs second goal on Wednesday against the Falcons. This was a dirty work power play goal where Camper simply crashed the net for the rebound of a David Warsofsky point shot, and then stuffed the loose puck home. Camper was impressive enough in the second half to get some face time in Boston when injuries hit the front line, and it looks like the Miami University alum has picked up right where he left off.2) Love the hustle and grit from Jared Knight. He was kept off the scoreboard despite a couple of good scoring chances, but he showed just how committed he is to impressing while winning a job. During the second period Knight smoked a shot off the crossbar that appeared destined to be a goal, but shook that off and sped back down the ice on defense. Knight then dropped to one knee at the top of the slot to block a shot seconds after catching iron, and continued to show the same commitment to intangibles hes been showing off in scrimmages as well. The offensive finish isnt quite there yet for Knight, but it will come.3) Ryan Spooner once again looked like the best offensive player out on the ice for either team. He slipped a cross-ice pass through traffic to Jamie Tardif that he wasnt quite able to finish in front of the net, but it gave onlookers an idea of just how effective the silky smooth Bs prospect is going to be at the AHL level this season. Provided he can stay healthy and play consistently, all of the signs continue to point to Spooner being a very effective top-six forward at the NHL level and a guy that can make players around him better.4) Its pretty clear the P-Bruins defensemen group has received the message that jobs are up for grabs in this camp. With nine blueliners signed to contracts, Providence can only hope to start the season with seven perhaps eight if they really push it defensemen on the roster. All were strong with David Warsofsky setting up a power play goal with a point shot and showing plenty of ability to escape traffic around the defensive end. Tommy Cross and Colby Cohen both showed polish and physicality youd expect from big, experienced blueliners. Zach Trotman didnt have quite the splash he enjoyed with a hat trick in the teams first scrimmage on Saturday, but there were no glaring errors on the defensive end either.5) Niklas Svedberg was much better between the pipes after a couple of shaky scrimmage performances, and Michael Hutchinson looked like the experienced, poised performer between the pipes. Granted the defense was very good and at times stifling in front of them, but Hutchinson finished with a shutout performance stopping 12 shots in the first half of the game. Svedberg allowed one goal as Springfield found their legs in the third period, but he was much better at tracking the puck while showing impressive athleticism going post-to-post. Both Adam Morrison and Shaun Hunwick didnt get a chance to play against Springfield on opening night.
BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.
But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.
This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.
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“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”
There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.
“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.
“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”
Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins.
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BRIGHTON -- In a development that was certainly much sooner than originally anticipated, David Backes has returned to the ice just a matter of weeks after having 10 inches of colon removed during surgery for diverticulitis. It remains to be seen how gradual a process it will be for the 33-year-old to actually return to game action given his original timetable for recovery was eight weeks following the early November procedure, but it seems like it might end up being ahead of the two months Backes was initially expected to be sidelined.
For his part, Backes was happy to be back skating with his teammates and pushing his recovering body after feeling pretty sluggish for the first few days following surgery. He confirmed he’d been skating for a couple of days while the team was on the West Coast, but Monday was his first team doing anything post-surgery with the rest of the team.
“It’s good to be back with the guys and to be around the room, and to have seen the kind of resiliency that these guys showed on the road trip. The back half of the road trip was impressive,” said Backes, who has an assist in five games with the Bruins before succumbing to the surgery. “To be on the ice and moving around after sitting around doing nothing for too long where you don’t think you’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels good.
“The doc’s advice is that if it doesn’t hurt then I can keep moving forward and add more of a workload on, so that’s the update for today. It’s still non-contact, but we’ll keep moving along and hopefully I’ll be back doing what I love to do on a regular basis. I haven’t been notified that the timeline has changed at all, so I’m just going to keep putting in the work. The more I seem to do the work the better it is, and I seem to be able to do a little more each day. So those are all positive signs.”
For the Bruins it’s clearly a morale booster to see the big power forward back doing regular hockey activities, and serving notice that he’ll be bringing his size, strength, leadership and physicality back to a B’s team that definitely needs him. Clearly the return of another high-end forward would also immensely help a Bruins team that’s still very undermanned up front, but it would appear there will be some other B’s forwards getting back prior to Backes.
Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner appear poised to return to full practice on Tuesday with a possible return to the lineup not too far beyond that after all three injured forwards took part in Monday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena.