If the games started today, the Bruins would be without two key pieces: Patrice Bergeron and Gregory Campbell. Fortunately for Boston, they don’t.
Though both players are on the mend from significant injuries they suffered in the 2013 postseason, they’re not quite there yet. So although they will practice with the team this week — including contact — neither is cleared for games at this time.
“When it comes time to play those exhibition games, it’ll be a conversation again with our trainers and making sure if they’re going to play, there’s not a risk factor,” coach Claude Julien said on the first day of the Bruins training camp. “So right now they would not be cleared to play a game if we started today. That might change in the upcoming days or a week from now.”
The first exhibition game isn’t until Monday against the Canadiens in Montreal, with the second coming a day later in Baltimore against the Capitals. For now, both players are content to get to skate.
Campbell, of course, broke his right leg in the Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins blocking a shot, and he had surgery to insert a plate and screws. He has been practicing with added padding in his skate and said he still expects to feel the break for a while.
Bergeron, who seems closer to being ready, dealt with a host of injuries during the Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks, with a broken rib, torn rib cartilage, a punctured lung, and a separated shoulder.
Bergeron repeatedly has said that he’s 95 percent and he expects to be ready for the start of the season. He feels pain in some rotational and core activities, but he is otherwise doing well.
“Honestly, if I feel fine in the first couple practices and I feel I can kind of bang around and play physical in one-on-one stuff on the ice, pretty much feel like I’ll be ready to get going and move forward,” Bergeron said. “I guess the next couple days will really tell where I stand with the lingering issues.”
Julien did make it clear Monday that the team will not allow either player to play before he’s ready.
“We’ll continue to monitor those guys,” he said, “and make sure that by the time the season starts [they’ll] have to be 100 percent to be in our lineup.”
The third line is up for grabs, and Julien made a strong statement when he was asked his message for the potential third-liners: “Take it. Take advantage of it.”
Said the coach, “It hasn’t just come from me. [General manager Peter Chiarelli] is the one that has kind of come out and said, ‘Listen, we’re going to bring in some youth into our lineup. So if some guys want a spot in this hockey club, here’s a good opportunity to do that. It’s open.’ ”
Chris Kelly is certain to be on that third line, but it could be as a center or as a wing. Julien has options, including Carl Soderberg, another natural centerman, along with potential wingers Jordan Caron, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, Craig Cunningham, Ryan Spooner, and Jared Knight. Daniel Paille could also move from the fourth line to the third line.
“I think ideally we saw the third line that we liked when we won the Cup,” Julien said. “Not only were they a dependable line, but they were able to give us some scoring.
“In a real perfect world, you’ve got your top two lines that you’d like to see score on a regular basis. Your third line should be able to give you some secondary scoring, and your third line should also be able to give you some secondary grit that your fourth line gives you.
“To me, they’re caught in the middle where they give you a little bit of both. That’s what we’re looking for from that line. We need more than just two lines to score.”
Passing the tests
The Bruins took their physicals Wednesday, and completed their off-ice fitness testing. “No disappointments, no surprises,” said Julien. “That was great news for a coach to see that these guys are ready to go.” The testing is something that usually leads to anxiety for the players, even though they are confident in their fitness levels. “Big relief,” said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. “Everybody gets nervous before testing. No real reason. Everybody gets excited, but now with the testing over, I think everybody’s ready to go.” Added Jarome Iginla, “It always gets in your head. So it’s great to have it over.”