SASKATOON, Saskatchewan — With the preseason schedule completed with a 5-0 win over the Jets on Friday night, the Bruins got on a plane back to Boston with decisions to make as they attempt to whittle their roster to the 23 players they’ll keep to start the season.
General manager Peter Chiarelli confirmed the team will keep eight defensemen, which means Kevan Miller, 25, makes the club in addition to all three young players, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, and Matt Bartkowski. Miller was a bit of a surprise, with Chiarelli calling him “a strong, physical D-man.”
As for the third line, it appears set with Chris Kelly centering Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith, what Chiarelli had envisioned. The trio has been playing together most of training camp.
“It’s nice to see there’s a little bit of chemistry there,” Chiarelli said.
The only spots still open are the extra forward and the backup goaltender, both jobs that have come down to the wire.
The extra forward seems likely to go to either Jordan Caron or Nick Johnson, both of whom scored in Friday’s win. Caron’s goal came on a rebound, and Johnson scored on a blast from just inside the blue line. Although Ryan Spooner has played well, it would seem the center — who played “OK” against Winnipeg while centering the top line, according to coach Claude Julien — will be ticketed for Providence.
The results were better for Caron and Johnson.
“I thought they played well,” Julien said. “Even as a line, they did a good job. When there’s a battle going on like that, you like to see those guys respond the way they did tonight.”
When asked about the most important factor in deciding on the final forward, Chiarelli said, “There has to be an element of versatility. We’ve seen that in a few guys. It’s a tough decision because there’s three or four guys that had good camps. But versatility, first and foremost.”
“Overall it’s gone well,” Johnson said. “Did what I could. Didn’t worry about too much, just tried to play. What they do, they do. It’s a lot easier to play when you’re not thinking about that.”
Caron echoed that sentiment. “The last few games I think I’ve stepped up,’’ he said. “I think I’m feeling more confident. I think they know I really want this. Been working really hard for three years now. This is my fourth. I’m just hoping the chips are going to fall into place.”
As for the goaltenders, it would be easier for the Bruins to go with Chad Johnson over Niklas Svedberg. Johnson carries a lower cap hit ($600,000 to Svedberg’s $1 million) and would have to clear waivers to get to the AHL. Svedberg would not, and the 24-year-old could probably benefit from more minutes at the AHL level.
“They both had strong camps,” Chiarelli said. “Just on a per minute played basis, Nik played better, but Chad played well. That game in Detroit [a 2-0 shutout], he played well. It gives me comfort that they’ve played well over the course of the camp. We have some depth there.”
There will be some transactions before the season starts to ensure the Bruins are cap compliant. Chiarelli said the roster might change slightly in the next week.
Rask in top form
Tuukka Rask had a shutout in his final tune-up for the regular season, stopping 20 shots. “It was nice to see that he got more than 12 shots, that’s what he wanted,” Julien said. Rask said he is ready for the regular season. But, as Julien said, “He seems to be in top form right now.” . . . David Krejci was scratched with back spasms. Julien called the injury minor . . . Soderberg suffered a minor injury in the game, but Julien said it wasn’t an issue.
Let’s get started
The players are, clearly, ready for the regular season to start. “Yes,” Milan Lucic said. “It’s been a long camp after what we went through last year, just a week of practicing, and right into regular-season games, but it’s been nice. It’s been good to get comfortable with the new guys on the team, get to know them. But getting a little restless and can’t wait for next week to start.” . . . The Bruins will head to Waterbury, Vt., for team-building activities Monday and Tuesday. The team will hold a practice at the Waterbury Ice Center Tuesday, which will be open to the public. Johnny Boychuk, Kelly, Marchand, Dennis Seidenberg, and Shawn Thornton are scheduled to sign autographs after the session.