WINNIPEG, MB - When those in the spoked-B hit the ice for their pregame skate on Thursday morning at the MTS Centre, the players represented those in tonight's lineup against the Jets. The game is set for 7:30 p.m. ET (6:30 local) and is being aired on NHL Network in the U.S. (TSN in Canada).
With Patrice Bergeron's line and the Merlot Line in the lineup, the second and third lines are full of the forwards competing for a spot on the opening night roster.
"It's good that you have those tough decisions," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, following the team's morning skate. "Who isn't here will likely end up in Providence and you run into injuries and so we need those guys to be able to step into our lineup and play."
"And when you see them enough and feel confident in them, and know that they were that close to making it, it certainly gives you some comfort as a coach, knowing you've got some depth down there you can rely on."
The final two preseason games against the Jets, first in Winnipeg on Thursday night, and then in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Friday night, serve as the final opportunities for the players vying for spots to prove themselves, and serve to make the decisions for Julien and his staff more complicated than they already are.
"There’s two games left and I think for a lot of those guys it's going to be, and I go back to what I said yesterday, we have some tough decisions to make and a lot of pros and cons and going to have to weigh those after these next two games," said Julien.
It's a situation Johnny Boychuk knows well, having competed his way on to Boston's roster from Providence years ago.
"It's tough because you want to do whatever you can to make the team and at the same time, you don't want to make any mistakes," said the defenseman. "So, it's, like, you've got to play really good hockey. You have to play really good hockey all of the time but it's kind of like you're fighting. You have to be ready for anything, and you have to put everything out there."
"You can't overthink the game; you just have to keep doing the same thing that got you here and you know, just keeping it simple is sometimes best."
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson
Matt Fraser-Ryan Spooner-Nick Johnson
Jordan Caron-Matt Lindblad-Reilly Smith
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Starting Goalie: Niklas Svedberg
Backup: Chad Johnson
Caron in the Running
One Bruin in tonight's lineup who is already playing his fifth game is Jordan Caron.
"I think he’s one of those guys that’s in the running," said Julien. "The thing with Jordan is he’s very reliable, both ends of the ice. He’s a big body, strong along the puck."
"Right now I guess the thing that you’re looking for is what can he bring besides that part of the game. He’s pretty good at that part of it, a little bit of production a little bit of offensive chances; we’re encouraging him to take pucks to the net, stuff like that. So we’re going to take a good look at him."
"This year, he’s a guy that needs waivers so there’s going to be some decisions to make and we’re giving him all the chances we can, we’re giving him a lot of games."
Vets Tuning Up
The preseason doesn't just serve as a chance for younger players to acclimate themselves to the organization and their Bruins' teammates, or even just as an evaluation tool.
While most veterans like Dennis Seidenberg will tell you that they could start playing right away, a long training camp gives them every opportunity to nail down the details of their own games.
Most of the B's seasoned players have suited up in three games, and will have at least four under their belts by the time the home opener on October 3 arrives.
"There are some vets that have had maybe four games, some that are probably only going to get three so it’s important that every game that they’ve played, they’ve used it as a tune up and trying to find their game and make sure it’s where it should be when the season starts," said Julien.
"So I don’t think the approach should be any different [than the players competing for spots]; they know the season’s getting closer so they’re probably going to be a little bit more focused on that. But you’d like to hope that they’re preparing every game the same way and that’s to make sure that they’re ready when that puck drops on October 3rd for us."
The Captain's Calming Influence
Captain Zdeno Chara has only played two preseason games heading into Friday night in Saskatoon, where he's likely in the lineup, as Julien looks to ice his team by then.
When it comes to Big Zee, though, he's always ready.
"I prepare for every game same way, doesn’t matter if it’s preseason game or regular season game or playoffs, I try to be ready when I play and do my best," Zee told me earlier in training camp, when he had yet to suit up in a preseason game yet, as the coaches opted to use the games to evaluate young players.
So, whether it's Day 1 of training camp, or Day 15, the Bruins understand where their mindset needs to be.
"Everybody has got to do whatever he can to get himself ready for the opening game, and season," said Chara, following a skate on Thursday in Winnipeg with those not in the lineup.
"The biggest thing is that this team is always competing, and playing hard," he added. "Mistakes - they will always happen, nobody's perfect. But as long you're working hard and compete every shift and every game, I think you should be fine."
As much as everyone is expected to compete, right now, a lot of players on the B's roster on competing with one another, and not just the opponent.
"As much as I can talk to some of the players - I'm more than happy to do that - but they seem really relaxed and they seem comfortable fighting for those open spots. But if someone needs to be calmed down, I would probably do it, but it's also good that they show emotions and their willingness to be really trying to earn that spot."
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