Kampfer's loss is Bartkowski's gain in roster battle

191545.jpg

Kampfer's loss is Bartkowski's gain in roster battle

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

BOSTON -- It wasnt how Matt Bartkowski wanted it to go down.

But it certainly looks like the young defenseman will be cracking the Bruins Opening Day roster this time around.

The Bruins were cautiously optimistic about the left knee injury suffered by Steve Kampfer in the third period of their 2-1 loss in the preseason home finale at TD Garden, but the young defenseman is headed for an MRI on Friday morning. Kampfer collided with Ottawa defenseman Jared Cowen in the Senators defensive zone, and did an awkward split on the ice before going down in a heap. Kampfer needed to helped off the ice and never returned to the game with an injury that looked fairly substantial to an eye without any medical training.

Kampfer's knee is the Bruins' first significant injury of the year after enjoying relative health throughout the regular season and playoffs last year. Coach Claude Julien wasnt ready to make any definitive announcements, but things certainly appear to be trending in one direction.

I dont know if Kampfers injury settles the roster battle. Well find out Friday how severe it is, said Julien. Is Kampfer going to be out two months or is he only going to be a few weeks? If he is only out for two weeks, then it can still be a battle going on there.

Credit Julien for walking on the sunny side of the street, but the requirement of an MRI is usually not a good sign.

Its also a shame considering that Kampfer was playing some of his best hockey over the last few preseason contests, and appeared poised to wrap up the roster skirmish for the last defensemen spot out of training camp.

But injuries are certainly a part of hockey, and now Bartkowski may get a chance to get a little more comfortable with the considerable pace and speed of the NHL game. The rapidity of game action seems to leave Bartkowski behind at times, but the young defenseman has had some excellent moments in the preseason against Ottawa and Montreal in particular.

Bartkowski is bigger, stronger and sounder defensively than Kampfer, while also flashing some good vision from the point position, but his puck-moving skills and speed are going to be a work in progress. The only way to improve will be exposure to game action, and that may be limited given the very definition of a seventh defensemen role on a playoff team with six established defensemen.

Two defensemen with disparate skills and strengths, but individuals that can also contribute to the Bs this season when its all said and done.

Bartkowski and Kampfer were both pretty good, said Julien. I thought Kampfer was having a real good night skating and moving the puck, and Bart is still there. There are some things that I think he has to continue to work on.

Hes got good size and hes a solid skater, but every once in a while he gets caught with maybe not moving the puck quickly enough. Those are just little things that he has to continue to work on but having said that I like both their games.

Normally a young player would be ecstatic at a break that opened things up for a NHL job, but Bartkowski knew his shot was likely coming at the expense of another young defenseman hes grown close to over the last couple of years.

Ill be ready if that time does come, but its definitely not the way you want it to happen. You dont want to get an opportunity because another guy is hurt, said Bartkowski, who has a pair of assists in four preseason games. I mean, thats the way it works, but its not like Ill take it anyway I can. But Ill definitely be ready when it happens.

So Bartkowski will likely get the shot with the Bs as a seventh defenseman that he never received last year. Bartkowski looked like he would be that guy while making it all the way to the European trip with the rest of the Bs through Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic, but the blueliner turned into the final camp cut before the regular season.

Then Kampfer passed by him during the season, and Bartkowski appeared in only a handful of games during the regular season before a playoff stint as one of the Black Aces.

Theres no doubting it was a big camp for Bartkowski after growing exponentially as a player, and now the opportunity has been set out in front of him.

The goal is to make the team, so getting to the last round of cuts, said the 6-foot-1, 196-pound Bartkowski. "Its a big step, so its very important. So its good so far. Every second you get more comfortable with this level. Even practicing in the playoffs helps a little bit. Now going through this camp it definitely helps a lot.

Its unfair and its a bit harsh, but injuries happen in professional sports and when they do it usually pries open the door for somebody else to have an opportunity.

A knee injury might just be giving Bartkowski the chance hes worked diligently to earn, and now its on the 23-year-old to make the most of it.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While the sequence of events over the past couple of days could understandably lead one to wonder who will start between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night vs. Nashville, interim coach Bruce Cassidy tried to quell any hint of a goalie controversy.

The vote of confidence was certainly needed after Anton Khudobin’s fifth consecutive win halted the B's four-game losing streak with a huge 2-1 victory over the Islanders on Saturday night in the wake of Rask’s absence while tending to a short-term lower body issue.  

“[Rask] had a good practice today. I spoke with him. We’ll see how he wakes up tomorrow and we’ll make our decision. He’s our No. 1 goalie, so there’s no way we can skirt our way around that issue. He’s our No. 1 and his health is very important. When he’s physically ready to go and he tells me that, then we’ll make that decision,” said Cassidy. “He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year...and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.

“That’s why we have two goaltender, and [Anton Khudobin] has really stepped up in that last stretch and done what’s asked of him. He’s fixed that area of our game. It’s nice to have a guy that’s your No. 2 that can win you hockey games and play well. It’s a great problem to have, to be honest with you. But Tuukka is our No. 1. But Tuukka is our No. 1. He’s our guy.”

Rask declared himself fit to play after going through a full Monday practice with no issues, but said he’s still waiting to hear the final word on whether he’ll play on Tuesday night vs. the Predators. The Bruins franchise goalie also said he isn’t worried about any recurrence of the lower body injury that “popped up” in the Tampa Bay loss Thursday night, which really doesn’t bring any clarity to the entire situation.

“It was a good day back on the ice. I feel good. We’ll see what the decision is [for the Nashville game], but I feel good today,” said Rask, who is 8-8 with a .892 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average since the All-Star break, compared to Khudobin’s 2-0-0 with a .920 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average. “You need to put the best lineup out as possible, and I wasn’t in any shape to play. So, there are no easy decisions this time of year, but I’ve played a lot of hockey and injuries happen. We talked to the training staff and managers and came to a decision that [Khudobin] was going to play the game, and that’s it.

“It’s obviously tough from a personal standpoint, but it’s never about one guy or two guys. It’s a team game and I feel confident that we’re going to get the job done as long as we play the way we did. It was great to see.”

Clearly, it looks like Rask is going to play vs. Nashville and that’s the safe, easy decision when it comes to a No. 1 goalie getting paid $7 million a season and perhaps it all works out with a fired up Finnish netminder after sitting out Saturday night. But nobody is going to be faulted if they wonder what’s going to wrong with Rask ahead of the next gigantic game Boston will have to play with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the line. 

Krejci leaves practice early with 'upper body issue'

Krejci leaves practice early with 'upper body issue'

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins returned to work on Monday after a big win over the weekend, but were one man down by the end of practice at Warrior Ice Arena. David Krejci exited the ice early on Monday and coach Bruce Cassidy said that the playmaking center is battling a bit of an upper body issue.

That was the reason for his abbreviated practice appearance ahead of the game Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden.

“He’s got a bit of an upper body issue, he’s got a little discomfort,” said Cassidy of Krejci, who has one point and a minus-4 rating over his past four games. “He got treated and I believe he’ll be fine tomorrow. I don’t think it’s anything major, but I can’t speculate [on it]. But that’s the issue.”

There was no play that sticks out from the Saturday night win over the Islanders were Krejci might have hurt himself, but the team’s hope is obviously that it’s something the 30-year-old can keep playing through.

With Krejci having left the ice, Ryan Spooner bumped up to the second line with the following line combos and D-pairings finishing out an hour-long practice:

 
Marchand-Bergeron-Backes

Stafford-Spooner-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Nash-Hayes

Beleskey-Moore-Acciari

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

C. Miller-K. Miller

 
Rask