Two weeks from Thursday, the Bruins will start the regular season at home against Tampa Bay.
Before then, injuries could happen. Players could open eyes, in good or bad ways, in the four remaining preseason games and practices.
But as of now, the Bruins may have a good idea of how their third line might look.
The No. 3 line has two openings on Chris Kelly’s wings. Based on their play, pedigree, and the team’s needs, Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith are currently the leading candidates as left and right wings.
At the start of camp, coach Claude Julien said he wanted a third line similar to the threesome in 2010-11: Kelly between Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley. It was a unit that could provide secondary scoring and play with some jam.
Soderberg is the most skilled forward of the group. He scored 31 goals for Linkoping in Sweden last year.
Against Montreal on Monday, Soderberg centered Matt Fraser and Craig Cunningham. But general manager Peter Chiarelli projects Soderberg to be on the wing. Kelly is a responsible two-way center. He won 57.9 percent of his faceoffs last year. Soderberg did not stand out at center against the Canadiens.
“He can really shoot the puck,” Chiarelli said. “From that perspective, maybe right now he’s the guy we collectively see on the wing. I see the way that he’s beaten D in practice, going wide and being strong on the puck. For me, that’s a prototypical winger trait. He’s got some of the power forward traits to his game. We’ll see how these next games progress.”
The Bruins also have plans for Soderberg on the power play. He was on the first unit against the Canadiens. The left-shot Soderberg could be the right-side goal-line forward. Soderberg could also see time in front or on the right half-boards.
Smith doesn’t have Soderberg’s goal-scoring history. But the second-year pro has submitted a strong camp. The left-shot Smith would be playing his off wing. Smith, however, played right wing for most of his three-year career at Miami University.
Smith appeared in 37 games for Dallas last year, tallying three goals and six assists. The Bruins would want Smith to be a two-way wing in the Peverley mold — fast, quick, and intelligent. Smith played alongside Kelly and Jordan Caron against Washington on Tuesday.
“He’s very smart,” Chiarelli said. “He makes good plays in small spaces. He’s got a real good shot. For me, I’m still evaluating. I haven’t seen a lot of him. I saw him a couple times in college. I didn’t see him live in Dallas. Our guys scouted Dallas quite closely last year. Very good stick on the wrong side. He picks pucks very well. Very good on the wall. He’s not the biggest guy, but I think he plays with an edge. He’s got a lot of the things we like.”
Johnson needs work
Chad Johnson, Tuukka Rask’s likely backup, didn’t submit his best attempt at grabbing the job. Johnson allowed three goals on eight shots on Monday before ceding the crease to Malcolm Subban in the second period.
The Canadiens scored their first goal after Johnson fumbled a long-distance Louis Leblanc shot. P.K. Subban hammered a five-on-three slap shot past Johnson for Montreal’s second goal. Max Pacioretty scored the third goal by slipping the puck five-hole.
“We’ve seen Chad play better,” Chiarelli said.
“He only had eight shots. But still, three goals on eight shots. I don’t fault him on the Subban shot. The other one, five-hole behind the D? He didn’t get a lot of help on that one, either. But he’s got to be better.”
Johnson will play one full game in the four remaining matches.
Gregory Campbell might dress on Thursday against the Red Wings. “I think as I play, I’ll get more comfortable,” said Campbell, recovering from a broken leg suffered in the Eastern Conference finals . “The mental challenge is a big one too, just trying to overcome that. I’m feeling good enough to play. It’s time for me now to move forward and just play.” . . . Patrice Bergeron is not likely to play Thursday. The Bruins still plan for Bergeron to appear in at least one preseason game . . . If Soderberg and Smith make the third line, Caron could be the extra forward. Caron is on a one-way deal . . . The Bruins cut six from camp on Wednesday: Adam Morrison, Tyler Randell, Jack Downing, Steven Spinell, Ben Youds, and Scott Campbell. All will report to Providence’s camp. The Bruins have 45 players remaining in main camp. They are planning to make their second round of cuts Friday . . . Daniel Paille (illness) and Bobby Robins (personal) didn’t practice on Wednesday.