One of the takeaways from Sunday night’s game against the Devils was the play of Joonas Kemppainen, the 27-year-old Finnish center who could be a candidate for the Bruins’ fourth line, perhaps with a bit of seasoning in Providence first.
He made a strong first impression, seeming to adapt well in his early days in training camp.
“He’s a big body in front of the net when we did use him on the power play, as well, but he was strong on the faceoffs,” coach Claude Julien said. “We know that [Patrice Bergeron] as a righty is pretty good. If [Kemppainen] can hang in there and earn himself a spot, we’ve got a lefty who can take some big faceoffs as well, so it was nice to see.”
Kemppainen was a low-cost signing for the Bruins, coming over midway through his career in the Finnish league. He scored 11 goals last season in 59 games, adding 21 assists. He had 17-14—31 numbers the year before, in 51 games. His one-year, two-way deal will pay him $700,000 in the NHL.
The question is whether he can force the Bruins to keep him there.
“Big, strong, and he outmuscles and he’s pretty smart,” Julien said. “We knew that coming in. We just didn’t know how he’d fare at this level, but as you know, the competition’s going to get stiffer as far as who he’s going to be up against as the preseason moves on.”
In other words, he’s not on the team yet.
Kemppainen, for his part, pointed to his ability in the faceoff circle as a “big, big strength for me,” one that could be another tick mark in his favor. But it’s far from the only one.
“He’s pretty smart,” Julien said. “He’s got great hockey sense. That’s what I noticed from watching him before we got him here, when I watched him play on the video.
“He just seems to be calm, poised, and he seems to have real good hockey sense. When it gets a little hectic, he doesn’t panic and he makes the right play.”
The Bruins have an abundance of riches where it comes to centers in the bottom six. In addition to Ryan Spooner, the presumptive third-line center, the Bruins also have Max Talbot, Chris Kelly, and Zac Rinaldo, in addition to Kemppainen, all of whom can play center. That’s something Boston has used to its advantage, notably with Kelly in past years, including the last two when he was on a line with the departed Carl Soderberg.
“It’s good,” Talbot said. “I think it’s good for a line that you have a couple of guys that played center, guys have different responsibilities. I was telling Kemper last night, cheat on draws. Or if I’m there first, he can play wing. That’s something that I think it adds on the line and it’s pretty good.”
Or, as Julien said, “The more guys that can take faceoffs and we can start with the puck, the better it is for our hockey club.”
Griffith sidelined 3-4 weeks
The Bruins announced that forward Seth Griffith will be out 3-4 weeks with an MCL sprain in his left knee. Griffith, who was battling for a spot on the NHL club, suffered the injury Sunday night against the Devils. He had looked good, playing alongside Jake DeBrusk and Alexander Khokhlachev, with the line spending most of its time in the offensive zone. But the injury will cost Griffith all of training camp, and likely into the start of the season.
Seidenberg remains day to day
There was no update on defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who has yet to skate in training camp with an upper-body injury. He remains day to day . . . The Bruins still have a crowded camp, with 58 players remaining before the looming first cuts. Asked if that was the largest number he’s had as a coach, Julien said, “Only when I played. We used to have four teams back then. We’d just scrimmage, beat the crap out of each other. Whoever was left had a chance to make the team. That’s how it worked back then.”