Bruins players at minor-league camp happy to be back

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Bruins players at minor-league camp happy to be back

NORTH SMITHFIELD, RI The first official day of training camp is in the books with the Providence Bruins, as Group B wrapped up their skating session at the Rhode Island Sports Center on Friday afternoon.

Group B included Chris Bourque, Ryan Spooner and Matt Bartkowski, among others, and they were enthusiastic about being out on the ice even if it wasnt quite the NHL training camp theyd originally envisioned. In all, 34 skaters reported to Providence for the first day of training camp, including those with NHL experience like Bourque, Bartkowski, Jordan Caron, Max Sauve, Garnet Exelby, Christian Hanson, Carter Camper, Trent Whitfield and Torey Krug.

It felt a little strange to the players starting late and without the regular Bs roster, but they were happy to be back on the ice.

Usually around this time youre in the middle of the exhibition games in an NHL training camp, said Bourque, who undoubtedly would be getting ready for back-to-back games in Saskatoon and Winnipeg right now if the NHL exhibition season hadnt been scrapped. But its also nice to get things started here, and to meet all the guys and get the fitness testing done.

Finally getting on the ice feels good, and now were back in the swing of things.

For the Bruins coaching staff -- and front office members like Peter Chiarelli, Don Sweeney and Jim Benning -- it was a chance to finally get out of the house and evaluate their players rather than sitting and waiting for the NHL lockout to be over.

So just how difficult has it been for Chiarelli to sit, watch, and wait while his training camp and preseason schedule have fallen victim to the lockout thats now 13 days and counting?

You should ask my wife that . . . shes ready to kick me out of the house," said the Bruins' general manager. "I miss it. Its a really exciting time to see everybody competing for jobs and to see the fruit of their labor after working hard all summer. I miss it and hope to see it soon.

Its also exciting to watch hockey again. For the last 20 years of my life at every training camp it seems like you miss it. This is obviously a little different setting, but the guys are energetic. Well have some scrimmages on the weekend well be back at it.

Its not quite NHL hockey, obviously, but the Providence Bruins and the AHL will have to be enough until the NHL and NHLPA can finally secure some middle ground for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

This probably won’t come as a complete shock to those watching the way things have played out with him this season, but the Bruins have engaged in discussions with multiple teams about a Ryan Spooner trade, per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. 

The 23-year-old Spooner was mentioned casually a few months ago as possible fodder in a Jacob Trouba deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but that deal never really materialized prior to the Jets signing their young, frontline D-man to a two-year deal. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks have all expressed interest in Spooner, per one hockey source, as it appears that things simply aren’t going to work out for him in Boston. 

It’s been a challenging year for Spooner with pedestrian numbers of three goals and eight points in 24 games, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances behind the slow start. Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.  

Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold. 

“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”

Trade talks have increased the past few weeks because A) the situation has worsened recently with Spooner’s prolonged stint as a miscast fourth line winger and B) the speedy, skilled forward will most likely be a man without a spot when 22-year-old left winger Frank Vatrano returns sometime around the mid-December range. 

According to one source, the Bruins are asking for a “top six forward” in exchange for a package including Spooner, and it’s a lead pipe certainty they’re looking for some goal-scoring given their 24th ranked offense this season. That represents a bit of an organizational sea change after the Bruins searched low and high for a top-4 defenseman in trade over the summer. The emergence of 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and the Boston defense’s performance across the board, has lowered the Black and Gold’s priority list need to trade for a D-man. 

The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 18 of their 25 games this season and badly need somebody that can put the puck in the net from one of the wing positions. Unfortunately for the Bruins, there aren’t a lot of top-6 forwards readily available that could make an immediate impact. It’s highly doubtful any team is going to fork one over for an asset like Spooner that’s been downgraded due to the way he’s been utilized by the Bruins this season. He hasn't played with the same creativity or confidence this season after posting 13 goals and 49 points as their third line center last season. 

So it remains to be seen what the Bruins will get for Spooner after they offered him and a draft pick to Buffalo for rental forward Chris Stewart a couple of years ago. That was a deal Sabres GM Tim Murray turned down before trading Stewart for considerably less at the trade deadline.

The bottom line: the Bruins are working the phones discussing possible Spooner deals, and it feels like there is some motivation from B’s management to move a player that doesn’t seem like he'll ever be a proper fit in Julien’s system. 

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at the Bruins setting a franchise record this season for fewest practices in a regular season. Thanks compacted schedule due to the World Cup!

*Pavel Zacha is adjusting to life as a rookie in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, and things are getting better as they go along.

*Manitoba Moose players relive their favorite Star Wars moments prior to the team holding their Star Wars Night.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman sits down with new Florida Panthers head coach Tom Rowe to discuss the massive changes in that organization with the firing of Gerard Gallant.

*Good for Anders Nilson putting a rainbow decal on the back of his goalie to mask to support some gay friends that have faced public resistance in their lives.

*Bruce Garrioch has his weekly NHL notes with several players, including Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, potentially on the trade block if anybody wants them.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson suffering a broken leg that will keep him out 6-8 weeks.

*There was no blood for the Vancouver Canucks fans, but there was still plenty of drama in a win over the Maple Leafs.

*For something completely different: The World Baseball Classic works for everybody except for Major League Baseball, and that would appear to be a problem.