BostonBruins.com - The group assembling at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, MA for Captain's Practices grows larger by the day. on Friday, defensemen Adam McQuaid and Matt Bartkowksi were the latest B's to join in the informal skates.
Defensive prospect Joe Morrow, acquired in the trade with Dallas in July, also hit the ice with the group for the first time in Black & Gold. He joins Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser as the trio of "prospects" who came to Boston with Loui Eriksson from the Stars.
The group of 15 forwards, nine defensemen and two goalies was by far the most on the ice at a time this week, and it allowed for the first 5-on-5 scrimmage during Captain's Practices. It was also the skate most resembling a B's practice, with hardly any stoppages and the sounds of gliding skates, crisp passes, slap shots and the outbursts of stick taps for a teammate's slick goal once again filling the rink.
With about two weeks of these practices in the books, here are a slew of observations…
-It may have been a "short offseason," but these B's wasted no time getting into conditioning - and it shows. Of course, it won't fully show until physicals and Training Camp, when they push themselves amidst the presence of Head Coach Claude Julien and co.
-Carl Soderberg is no doubt much more comfortable on the NHL sheet. I'll be curious to see where he's slotted in on the ice during camp. The wing, or at center? Chris Kelly seems all but a lock for his usual center position, and Coach Julien is never shy about having two centers on a line, with the emphasis he places on faceoffs.
-Gregory Campbell can't stop smiling, now that he's been back on the ice skating for two weeks and gets to join his teammates as he continues his path to a full recovery from his broken leg suffered during the playoffs. He seems to be taking turns fine and have his usual skating stride, though he says putting his foot into the skate is the biggest adjustment because that area is the most sensitive. It's more his conditioning level that he doesn't feel is not where he wants it to be yet.
"In my mind I feel like im still a little a step or two behind especially these other guys that have been going hard for some time now, so I think I can definitely participate in practices and things like that - I think ill just have to see how it goes and how I progress and not push it."
-Dennis Seidenberg also never stops smiling (maybe it's something about those T-Blades...)
-Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla look like they've been Bruins much longer than two months. Whether it's their demeanor as they grow accustomed to their new teammates, their sniper shots or their work ethic, they're fitting in just fine. Also, Loui met Milan Lucic on Wednesday, and then supported him at his charity softball game the next day -- so maybe it's the fact that they already appear to be excellent teammates. Intangibles.
-Bobby Robins and Rob Flick (acquired on Trade Deadline Day in April when Boston sent Maxime Sauve to the Blackhawks in a trade) were sparring for a lengthy amount of time following a practice this week, with P-Bruins 'tough guy' teaching the grinder the art of the hockey fight (Shawn Thornton was already off the ice, but he and Campbell have been known to drop the gloves after practices in a similar fashion).
-As far as players who may not know too well, Nick Johnson (signed as a free agent to a one-year, two-way deal in July) has blended in well with the group, as has new goaltender Chad Johnson. No relation, but N.J. - though he is a winger - reminds me of one Aaron Johnson. N.J. has been somewhat of a journeyman, but put up 26 points (8 goals, 18 assists) in 77 games with the Minnesota Wild in 2011-12. He may be considered a "depth player," but he'll be excited for a chance with the Black & Gold, whichever side of I-95 that lands him.
-Though Andrew Ference's leadership (and all-around good-natured-ness) is gone, the B's blueline doesn't seem like it has missed a beat. Chalk that up to the trio of Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton proving themselves in the postseason, and the extremely apparent camaraderie that has formed among all of those who guard the Bruins' back end.
Speaking of Krug...
The crafty defenseman spoke with media following Friday's Captain's Practice, about his focus this summer and heading into the start of camp next Wednesday, on September 11.
"This summer, coming into camp, it's a little bit more exciting," said Krug. "I'm more comfortable in the room, obviously I've been talking about that ever since I got here, how comfortable it is in this room with the group of guys in here; a family atmosphere. So coming in, I'm more comfortable, confidence is high, I'm just gonna keep my head down and go to work."
And about those high expectations on him coming into camp, following a stellar postseason with Boston, that saw him score his first four NHL goals in just his first five playoff games...
"I'm okay with that. I have those expectations of myself as well," he told the gathered reporters. "Obviously, I'm not going to be scoring goals at that rate that I did in the playoffs but that's what I want to try to do. And as long as I'm helping the team win that's all I care about."
"You know, that's the reason I came to Boston, to win the Stanley Cup. That's the goal at the beginning of the season and that's the way you have to approach every game."
I spoke with the blueliner a few weeks back, as he was gearing up to come to Boston, so check out this BostonBruins.com full feature on his summer training and his take on the "healthy competition" set to take place during camp.