The odds of Matt Lindblad breaking camp with the Bruins do not weigh in his favor. Lindblad is a future NHL fourth-liner for a team whose fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton is among the league’s best.
That Lindblad has stuck with the varsity until now, however, reflects how much the undrafted forward caught his bosses’ attention.
“Maybe he doesn’t stay,” acknowledged coach Claude Julien. “But at least we feel comfortable with him being a call-up. This is where we have to look at some of those guys. As a first-year player, maybe you say at the end of the day, he’ll benefit more from playing some more pro games and playing more often. But he’s here because I think he belongs here right now. The more we look at him, the better idea we’ll have and the more experience he’ll get out of that.”
The three-year Dartmouth forward centered the fifth line in Wednesday’s practice at TD Garden Earlier this year, Lindblad had no thoughts of attending an NHL camp. Had this been a normal September, Lindblad would have been in Hanover, N.H., for his senior year, pursuing his degree in government.
But last spring, the Bruins began their courtship. During spring break, Lindblad returned home to Illinois to discuss the offer with his parents. On April 11, Lindblad signed a two-year, entry-level offer. Lindblad is now seven credits short of his degree.
“It was one of the toughest decisions of my life, if not the toughest decision,” Lindblad said. “All year, I hadn’t really thought about it. I just assumed I’d come back for my senior season at Dartmouth. But my agent called me and said I had the opportunity to leave. And a good opportunity at that — a team that genuinely has interest in you and wants you to be part of their squad.”
As a junior, Lindblad was second in team scoring with 10 goals and 18 assists in 30 games. Lindblad was a go-to player at Dartmouth.
As a pro, whether in the NHL or AHL, Lindblad projects to be a bottom-six center or wing. Lindblad will also see time on the penalty kill.
Last year, after signing his contract, the 6-foot-1-inch, 193-pound Lindblad reported to Providence for the end of the AHL regular season. Lindblad scored one goal and had four assists in four games. Providence coach Bruce Cassidy compared Lindblad with Chris Kelly — a smart, versatile, two-way forward.
“I think I’m pretty reliable defensively,” Lindblad said. “I’m doing a lot of PK. Overall, I’m a pretty good two-way player. I really value defense and the defensive side of the game. I think that’s shown the last couple weeks.”
Lindblad centered Matt Fraser and Nick Johnson during Wednesday’s practice. Lindblad should play Thursday night against the Jets at Winnipeg.
Then, either before or after the Bruins’ team-building trip to Vermont, Lindblad will be assigned to Providence. It is the expected destination for the first-year pro. But Lindblad’s assignment will take place later than anticipated.
Final roster close
The Bruins have most likely decided their roster for next Thursday’s season opener against Tampa Bay at the Garden.
Three of the four lines have been set from camp’s opening. Jarome Iginla will be on the right side with Milan Lucic and David Krejci. Loui Eriksson will be on the second line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The longtime Paille-Campbell-Thornton threesome will comprise the fourth line.
The third line, which had two openings at the start of camp, looks like Kelly between Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith. Soderberg scored both goals in last Saturday’s 2-0 win over Detroit. Soderberg has also seen time on the No. 2 power-play unit. Smith has showed speed, quickness, and smarts throughout camp.
The final fight is for the 13th forward’s position. Johnson and Jordan Caron are the two top candidates.
Both would require waivers to be assigned to Providence. Lindblad, Matt Fraser, and Ryan Spooner are on their entry-level contracts.
On defense, Zdeno Chara skated with Johnny Boychuk on the No. 1 duo during Wednesday’s practice. Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton were paired on the second duo. Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid were the fifth and sixth defensemen.
Matt Bartkowski practiced with Kevan Miller on the extra pair. Bartkowski should be the No. 7 defenseman. Bartkowski leads the team with five preseason assists. Bartkowski has been dynamic carrying the puck and physical in the defensive zone. But Krug’s power-play touch will give him the nod.
As the No. 8 defenseman, Miller will be assigned to Providence prior to the regular season. But it’s been a successful camp for the rugged Miller, who should be among the first call-ups — Zach Trotman (righthand shot) and David Warsofsky (left) are the others — if and when injuries hit.
“Either way, I’m happy where I’m at,” Miller said. “Whether I’m down in Providence or up in Boston, I understand what the coaching staff and organization expect of me. I just want to keep doing what they expect me to do. Either way, I’m going to be happy.”
Miller scored two goals and had 14 assists for Providence last season. If Miller makes it to the NHL, he will not be relied on to score. The right-shot Miller, who played four years at the University of Vermont, plays an in-your-face game. Miller’s NHL comparable is McQuaid.
“That’s part of my game,” Miller said of his physical nature. “I like to embrace it. It’s something that comes with the territory with the kind of player I am. I enjoy that part of the game.”
Svedberg gets call
Niklas Svedberg will start against Winnipeg on Thursday at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. Tuukka Rask will start in Friday’s preseason finale in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, also against the Jets. Svedberg is most likely destined for Providence, where he will be the No. 1 goalie. Svedberg is better served seeing plenty of AHL action instead of backing up Rask for 60-plus games. Chad Johnson posted a shutout against Detroit on Saturday . . . If possible, Julien’s lineup on Friday will be the one he rolls out for the regular-season opener. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” Julien said. “We may have to look at some guys again in order to make that final decision. So that could be a possibility, too. But we’ll try and get as close as we can to it.” . . . The Bruins were scheduled to play in Winnipeg and Saskatoon last year, but the preseason games were scrubbed because of the lockout.