Bruins

Kampfer's loss is Bartkowski's gain in roster battle

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Kampfer's loss is Bartkowski's gain in roster battle

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

BOSTON -- It wasnt how Matt Bartkowski wanted it to go down.

But it certainly looks like the young defenseman will be cracking the Bruins Opening Day roster this time around.

The Bruins were cautiously optimistic about the left knee injury suffered by Steve Kampfer in the third period of their 2-1 loss in the preseason home finale at TD Garden, but the young defenseman is headed for an MRI on Friday morning. Kampfer collided with Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen in the Senators defensive zone, and did an awkward split on the ice before going down in a heap. Kampfer needed to helped off the ice and never returned to the game with an injury that looked fairly substantial to an eye without any medical training.

Kampfer's knee is the Bruins' first significant injury of the year after enjoying relative health throughout the regular season and playoffs last year. Coach Claude Julien wasnt ready to make any definitive announcements, but things certainly appear to be trending in one direction.

I dont know if Kampfers injury settles the roster battle. Well find out Friday how severe it is, said Julien. Is Kampfer going to be out two months or is he only going to be a few weeks? If he is only out for two weeks, then it can still be a battle going on there.

Credit Julien for walking on the sunny side of the street, but the requirement of an MRI is usually not a good sign.

Its also a shame considering that Kampfer was playing some of his best hockey over the last few preseason contests, and appeared poised to wrap up the roster skirmish for the last defensemen spot out of training camp.

But injuries are certainly a part of hockey, and now Bartkowski may get a chance to get a little more comfortable with the considerable pace and speed of the NHL game. The rapidity of game action seems to leave Bartkowski behind at times, but the young defenseman has had some excellent moments in the preseason against Ottawa and Montreal in particular.

Bartkowski is bigger, stronger and sounder defensively than Kampfer, while also flashing some good vision from the point position, but his puck-moving skills and speed are going to be a work in progress. The only way to improve will be exposure to game action, and that may be limited given the very definition of a seventh defensemen role on a playoff team with six established defensemen.

Two defensemen with disparate skills and strengths, but individuals that can also contribute to the Bs this season when its all said and done.

Bartkowski and Kampfer were both pretty good, said Julien. I thought Kampfer was having a real good night skating and moving the puck, and Bart is still there. There are some things that I think he has to continue to work on.

Hes got good size and hes a solid skater, but every once in a while he gets caught with maybe not moving the puck quickly enough. Those are just little things that he has to continue to work on but having said that I like both their games.

Normally a young player would be ecstatic at a break that opened things up for a NHL job, but Bartkowski knew his shot was likely coming at the expense of another young defenseman hes grown close to over the last couple of years.

Ill be ready if that time does come, but its definitely not the way you want it to happen. You dont want to get an opportunity because another guy is hurt, said Bartkowski, who has a pair of assists in four preseason games. I mean, thats the way it works, but its not like Ill take it anyway I can. But Ill definitely be ready when it happens.

So Bartkowski will likely get the shot with the Bs as a seventh defenseman that he never received last year. Bartkowski looked like he would be that guy while making it all the way to the European trip with the rest of the Bs through Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic, but the blueliner turned into the final camp cut before the regular season.

Then Kampfer passed by him during the season, and Bartkowski appeared in only a handful of games during the regular season before a playoff stint as one of the Black Aces.

Theres no doubting it was a big camp for Bartkowski after growing exponentially as a player, and now the opportunity has been set out in front of him.

The goal is to make the team, so getting to the last round of cuts, said the 6-foot-1, 196-pound Bartkowski. "Its a big step, so its very important. So its good so far. Every second you get more comfortable with this level. Even practicing in the playoffs helps a little bit. Now going through this camp it definitely helps a lot.

Its unfair and its a bit harsh, but injuries happen in professional sports and when they do it usually pries open the door for somebody else to have an opportunity.

A knee injury might just be giving Bartkowski the chance hes worked diligently to earn, and now its on the 23-year-old to make the most of it.

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

Morning Skate: Dad's texts and emails reveal enforcer's sad story

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Morning Skate: Dad's texts and emails reveal enforcer's sad story

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wishing everybody a safe night before Thanksgiving. Be careful out there, people.

*The New York Times has a very sad story on former NHL enforcer Stephen Peat, as told to the Times through a series of emails and texts from Peat’s dad as he struggles with a number of seemingly concussion-related issues in his post-hockey life.

*There’s nothing better than some Benn on Benn brotherly crime as Jordie Benn lays a hit on Jamie Benn in the Stars vs. Habs game.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Marc Spector has the Edmonton Oilers hitting a new low after they quit in a loss to the St. Louis Blues.

*Duncan Keith said he wants to play until he’s 45 and defy the odds as one of the few that get a chance to play pro hockey for that long.

*Dylan Larkin is flourishing with the Detroit Red Wings as he’s adding more responsibility to his chores in Hockeytown.

*A Happy Thanksgiving to the Boychuks and all the other great people around the NHL, including Matt Beleskey with the Bruins, who take time out of their days to help make sure everybody has a good meal on Turkey Day.

*For something completely different: Excited for my kids that there is going to be more Trolls in their future starting with a Christmas special on Friday.

 


 

Bruins won't win Cup with Rask in net, and need to start planning for future

Bruins won't win Cup with Rask in net, and need to start planning for future

One season could be an outlier. Two seasons is a trend. Three seasons is a long-term pattern that doesn’t figure to change.

For the last three seasons Boston’s $7 million man between the pipes, Tuukka Rask, has been more ordinary than extraordinary, and that’s a troubling development. At this point it’s enough to convince this humble hockey writer that the Bruins will never win a Stanley Cup with Rask as their No. 1 goaltender, and that should become a real issue in the next few years as the Bruins build back up to contender status.

Anton Khudobin will make his third straight start Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils, and that makes all the sense in the world: The backup has dramatically outplayed the starter this year. Just compare Khudobin’s NHL-leading .935 save percentage to Rask's pathetic .897, and the fact that the Bruins have pulled points from every single game Khudobin has started.

That’s all short-term stuff, but it's important as the Bruins are desperate for point to stay on the outskirts of the playoff picture. Long term, the B's are aiming toward being a Cup contender in a couple of years, when youngsters like Charlie McAvoy, David Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo, Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk will be entering their primes, and grizzled, winning veterans like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand will still have something left in the tank.

But what of the goaltending?

Rask, 30, still has an impressive career .922 save percentage, and nobody can take away his Vezina Trophy or his All-Star level seasons. But his save percentages have dropped noticeably: It's a combined .915 in the last two full seasons, and is below .900 now. He’s become predictable in his approach to shooters, consistently dropping to give them high, open targets around the net. And it feels like he’s lost some of the competitive fire he had when he was a milk-crate-tossing prospect in the minor leagues.

The stretches where he gives up soft goals have gotten longer, and -- as is necessary with a changing, aging cast of defensive personnel -- Rask rarely steals games when the Bruins are outplayed. The organization has also come to the determination that he loses effectiveness if he plays more than 55-60 times ia season.

In short, Rask is being paid as a $7 million-a-year franchise goalie, but he's not playing like one. And there's four years beyond this left on the contract.

The Bruins will have to play him and pump up his value if they any hopes of trading him in the future. He'll have to be inserted back in the lineup at some point anyway, because let’s face it: Khudobin and Zane McIntyre aren’t the answers as his replacement. The B's need to draft, sign or trade for Rask’s heir apparent, and pave the way for that goaltender to be in Boston a couple of years from now when they're again ready for a Stanley Cup push.

Rask proved he wasn’t good enough to carry a talented Bruins team over the top when he crumbled at the end of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks, and he’s been spotty, and oft-times unreliable, in big games ever since. It’s time for the Bruins to begin the search process for a goalie that can take them on a Cup run when they’re ready for it.

After nine seasons, Rask has proven he isn’t that guy.

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