VANCOUVER It appears Steve Kampfer might be on the outside looking in for the time being.
The 22-year-old defenseman was a healthy scratch Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames, and Claude Julien may stick with that lineup against the Vancouver Canucks this weekend.
Were not going to rotate defensemen just to rotate. Theres a young player going through some growing pains, just like everybody else, said Julien of Kampfer. Hes struggling a little bit as of late with moving the puck and losing some battles.
Every once in a while those guys go through the growing pains, and youve got to take a step back with them, let them watch and then work harder in practice to get better in those areas. When youve got 22 players somebody has got to sit out, and right now were going with some of the experienced players. I thought Johnny Boychuk was going through the same thing a little bit, but then against the Flames I thought he found his game . . .
"Eventually those guys recapture their game through hard work, and through the competition part of it guys will get better. Were hoping thats what happens with Kampfer.
Kampfer has 4 goals and 5 assists along with a plus-10 for the Bruins this season, and has been a rookie revelation as a puck-moving defenseman capable of playing 20 minutes, manning the power play and filling an important role for the Bruins.
But he has only a single assist in his last 12 games and is just a plus-3 over that span. His ice time has been scaled back to under 20 minutes in each of his last five games.
All that preceded the healthy scratch against the Calgary Flames.
While it was clear the arrival of All-Star defenseman Tomas Kaberle was going to reduce Kampfers role, the Bruins are going with the six veterans as defensemen and looking for more experienced blueliners via free agency and trades.
Shane Hnidy was given a tryout Wednesday morning, and there have also been some discussions with other teams.
Credit Kampfer for keeping quiet and simply working hard, especially after the difficult experience of being scratched in his Detroit homecoming against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
But its uncertain when hell again crack the Bruins lineup.
An injury could potentially open things up for Kampfer, but hell still need to prove to the coaching staff hes not stuck behind a rookie wall while coping with the travel rigors of pro hockey for the very first time at the NHL level.
It could be a combination of things. Number one, hes in a different schedule now than what he was used to last year, said Julien. Its his first full season and at the same time hes a first-year player. Early on he was thrown into a situation where we needed him to a puck-moving defenseman, and he provided us with that.
Sometimes things eventually catch up to you a little bit, and you hit that little bump in the road. Right now, where he has a chance to get better is in the mental challenge part of staying with it and working hard and working your way out of it. That will make him a better player down the road. Youve got to make sure you dont push yourself out and get discouraged, and instead take a positive approach and say youre going to work your way out of it. That will make you a better player.
Its clear the coaching staff wants to see more out of Kampfer, but its not clear at all when the young standout defenseman will get his next chance outside of practice.
Milan Lucic had a large contingent of Vancouver reporters around him following practice on Wednesday morning as he held a press conference announcing that his number with the Vancouver Giants (No. 27) will be retired in the Ring of Honor along with other standouts in the Giants franchise.
Its a fitting honor for a Memorial Cup champion that also garnered MVP of the tournament in his final year of junior hockey, but its also something that truly humbled the ever-modest Lucic.
The two years with the Giants was somewhere that I could develop and got me to where I am now, said Lucic. Its an honor to be honored by the Giants, and its something Im really looking forward to.
In celebration of the honor, Julien instructed Lucic to take a victory lap around the ice waving to imaginary fans in the stands as his Bruins teammates clapped, hooted and chanted MVP to celebrate their teammates accomplishments four years ago. Lucic said it all brought back memories of the last time he played a game on the Pacific Coliseum ice while capturing the Memorial Cup back in 2007 before he made the difficult jump to the NHL.
All Bruins players were healthy and accounted for at Bostons practice at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, and there was the distinct sense of lightness and good humor in the air as the Bs buzzed through more than an hour of work on the ice.
Julien had a little fun with the Vancouver media group when the subject came to Tim Thomas, and the season hes been enjoying thus far this season.
Hes . . . ah . . . struggled, said Julien with a smile on his face before giving a serious answer. No, hes played well. His season has gone a lot like last night. Hes been fabulous when weve needed him to be fabulous, and hes having a very good season.
Andrew Ference made the Darth Quaider nickname and T-shirts something of a sensation last week when he donned one in the Bs dressing room at Ristuccia Arena. Adam McQuaid enjoys the nickname and said he got all kinds of text messages from friends and family about the T-shirt last week but also sheepishly admitted that hes never seen the Star Wars movies that the nickname is based on.