Boston Bruins

Kampfer, McQuaid practice, close to returning

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Kampfer, McQuaid practice, close to returning

WILMINGTON The Bruins are a little banged up just five games into the new season, but they look like theyll be getting some reinforcements in the near future. Both Adam McQuaid who missed the Blackhawks game with a neck injury and Steve Kampfer who has missed all five Bs games with a sprained left MCL were back on the practice ice at Ristuccia Arena Monday morning, giving Boston eight defensemen.

McQuaids appearance on the ice seems to indicate that it was a neck injury rather than a concussion after he tumbled head-first into the boards against the Hurricanes last week, and coach Claude Julien said the towering blueliner was a possibility to play Tuesday night in the TD Garden rematch against Carolina if he can pass through some final tests Tuesday morning.

McQuaid made it through the biking and exertion tests previously, and Julien said itll be a well see about playing Tuesday.

You never want to miss too much time, said McQuaid, who indicated he skated on Sunday as well. But were just kind of evaluating things. Im feeling better each day; well see how the day progresses and then see how tomorrow goes.

I went through a similar situation before in last years Flyers series, so its one of those things where were just going day-by-day and see how it goes. Its been frustrating how the season has unfolded so far. Coming back after being sick for the first game, I still wasnt really feeling 100 percent like myself. So hopefully Im able to come back fully healthy this time around.

Kampfer, on the other hand, might need a few practices to get his conditioning back up to par and make sure hes ready for game action and that starts with the young blueliner likely getting cleared contact Tuesday morning. He looked as good as cleared for contact at the end of Mondays practice when he collided violently with Milan Lucic while the big power forward was carrying the puck with his head down.

I guess we were supposed to wait until tomorrow, said Kampfer with a laugh. But I guess it was good like that to get hit without expecting it. It kind of eases the mind to know you get hit and it didnt hurt anything.

Lucic skated away with everything pretty much intact, and Kampfer was okay after resting on one knee for a few seconds while making sure everything was in one piece. Kampfer assured after practice that he was pain-free in the left knee, and hes been attempting visualization exercises with the Bs training staff to help him pick up at the high level he was playing at just prior to the knee injury.

Im encouraged by how much Ive done in the first couple of games and how I feel walking and skating. It was a lot worse last season, said Kampfer. To feel as good as I do know is very encouraging. I still have to do a couple more things, get a couple more practices in and then well make that decision as we go.

The bottom line is this: Both McQuaid and Kampfer will be on the Bruins once they regain their health. It seems more likely that Matt Bartkowski is going to head back to Providence where he can get some playing time and build up confidence in his game. When asked about the defensemen on Saturday night, Claude Julien was specific in pointing out that he felt the five main defensemen were excellent against the Blackhawks while Bartkowski had a tough time getting out on the ice.

I would say five defensemen because Bartkowski only got out there for five minutes, said Julien. Bart was put in a tough position where he hadnt gotten much ice because of the situations, and then couldnt really put him into a close game in the third period. We feel it was judicious to use him there. Youre going to run into those situations where youre going to need to use the defensemen a little bit more.

We could handle it. We had two days before the next game and I thought they did a great job. Chara blocking those shots in the end. Johnny Boychuk blocking that one shot after getting run in the corner from behind. Then he goes down the ice and makes a big play on the game-tying goal. We really want our defensemen to be more proactive about getting down the ice and being part of the offense, and Boychuk was able to do that.

The need for offense is something stressed up and down the defensemen roster, and perhaps another reason why Kampfer should have the inside track on a roster spot once bodies start getting fully healed over the next few days.

Haggerty: Bjork looking like he's ready for his NHL shot

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Haggerty: Bjork looking like he's ready for his NHL shot

BOSTON – At this point in training camp with just a couple of preseason games to go, Monday night’s performance might have represented the exclamation point on Anders Bjork’s impressive drive to win an NHL roster spot. The 21-year-old Bjork has scored other goals during this preseason, but Monday night’s tally in Boston’s 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks was his first while skating with prospective linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

“I think we had more ice time together, which helped us get more comfortable and helped me kind of learn their chemistry a bit more,” said Bjork, who finished with 21 goals and 52 points in 29 games for Notre Dame last season. “Obviously, they have a ton of chemistry and they’re very easy to play with, of course, but you know, it’s nice to get more shifts with them and kind of pick up on their patterns and stuff like that.”

In fact, it’s become easy to see Bjork now winning the right wing spot with No. 37 and No. 63 after watching them work together in perfect concert for Boston’s third goal of the night.

Already up by a 2-0 score, Marchand turned over a puck in the Chicago defensive zone while on the forecheck hunt, and managed to work it over to Bergeron for a quick, backhanded saucer pass to the slot area. The alert Bjork stepped up into the high slot and one-timed the puck past Corey Crawford to give the Bruins a three-goal lead on Monday night, and allow all involved a sigh of heavy relief that Boston has found at least one rookie ready to hold down top-6 NHL job.

“He’s got that speed and the smarts to get open and then find the openings in the quiet ice. It was a great play by him just to get open, and for me to see him. He made it really easy,” said Patrice Bergeron. “He skates well, he made some great plays, we just need to keep talking and finding each other more and more on the ice.”

Given the overall scope of Bjork’s performance in camp, his steady presence on a line with Bergeron and Marchand during the preseason and his speedy skill set, the rookie is stating a strong case that he’s ready for NHL prime time. It would be a major training camp shocker to this humble hockey writer if Bjork is anywhere other than in the Bruins lineup when they drop the puck against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 5.  

“Yes, it does [look like Bjork is NHL ready]. The competition will stiffen for him and we’ll keep evaluating that. Still, he’s got skill, speed, and courage. He gets to the dirty areas. He’s hard to play against [and gives] second effort on pucks,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s not one-and-done with him. And for a young kid, that’s special, to be able to hang in and there and battle for those turnovers. That’s usually the part of the game they have to continue to grind on them.

“But he’s got a lot of that. Maybe that’s Bergy and March’s influence, I’d like to think they have some of that, because that’s their game. Marchy never quits. Bergy never quits. They’re going to be a hard line to play against if they are that dogged on the puck every shift.”

There are still two preseason games remaining before the real thing, so it makes little sense for the Bruins to pronounce Bjork ready for NHL duty until the time comes. Bjork’s combination of blazing skating speed, decision-making and confident swagger on the ice have pushed him to the top of Boston’s prospect list when it comes to being closest to play in the NHL. All were on display in his 12:48 of ice time with a goal and a plus-1 rating to go along with two shots on net, a hit and a takeaway while playing the fast, aggressive hockey that Boston prefers these days.

Bjork could have even had a second goal after he intercepted an Erik Gustafsson outlet pass, but missed the net high with a shot in close while going for his second goal of the game. All in all, it was another hurdle cleared by a talented Notre Dame standout that certainly feels like he’s destined to make the opening day roster, and equally ordained to start in a top-6 right wing role with arguably the best duo in the entire NHL.

It will be interesting to see just how good Bjork can be on a daily basis at the NHL level, and if he can get into becoming the 20 goals/50 points range player that should be in his future.  

Now it’s up simply up to Bjork to finish up strong in the preseason when he’s paired with Bergeron and Marchand, and continue on the straight-ahead path toward cracking the Bruins roster for years to come. It would appear he’s poised to “pop” in training camp just as Brandon Carlo did a year ago, and stand as one of those talented youngsters ready to help bridge the gap between talented rookies and established core veterans.

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