By Danny Picard
WILMINGTON -- As the Bruins travel to Columbus, where they'll begin a three-game road trip Tuesday night, there's one defensive spot that needs to be filled.
With Matt Bartkowski sent back down to Providence, the candidates to fill that spot would be Andrew Ference, Steve Kampfer, and Shane Hnidy.
Hnidy (shoulder) can be immediately crossed off that list, because he's not yet available.
As for Ference (lower body) and Kampfer (concussion), both have now practiced with the team for two straight days, and have been cleared to play. Coach Claude Julien said after Sunday's practice that, "with both players, it's a lot of, basically, their decision."
He reiterated that point after Monday's practice. If they feel like they can play, they will be available to fill that sixth and final spot on the defense.
"Kampfer and Ference will be, probably, decisions as we move forward here," said Julien. "If Kampfer feels good, then he's going to be cleared, and the same thing with Ference. But right now, I don't think there's any definite decision that's been made on either of those two players.
"We feel that one of them, at least, will be ready. And hopefully two."
Perhaps Julien was unwilling to tip his hand on Tuesday's lineup against the Blue Jackets, because just minutes before he spoke, Ference had already ruled himself out for Tuesday.
"You're anxious to get back, it's just that balance of being smart, and doing what's best for your injury, and also, not coming back to the point where you're a detriment to your team, by rushing things," said Ference after Monday's practice.
"I'm not playing tomorrow," he later added.
So it looks as if Kampfer will be the Bruins defenseman filling that sixth and final spot in Tuesday's lineup. he said after practice that he felt back up to game speed, and is ready to go, nearly two weeks after suffering a minor concussion on March 3.
"I felt good skating, I felt good getting hit a little bit," said Kampfer. "It all comes down to how I feel the rest of the day, and when I wake up tomorrow."
"You hope that you can play, but at the same time, it's Claude's decision."
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.