|New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo (21) tries to control the puck on Boston Bruins' Matt Hunwick during the first period of a pre-season NHL hockey game in Boston Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson) |
With only a maximum of 23 roster spots and 27 players still hanging around, time is winding down for the Bruins hopefuls to impress the coaches before the final cuts are made.
“It’s not as easy as it looks,” said head coach Claude Julien before this afternoon’s game against the New York Islanders. “We’ve got some tough decisions to make, and I think part of it is not just what we’re going to see on the ice.”
Of course, the salary cap adds another dimension to the puzzle, making decisions even harder.
“We just have to look at our situation and who’s going to be the best fit for our hockey club and try to make it work…with the cap, with the waivers, with the non-waivers,” Julien continued. “That’s where upper management comes in, and that’s where our input comes in.
“We tell them how we feel from down here, and hopefully they make it work.”
However, the coach was quick to point out that, just because a player doesn’t make the lineup now doesn’t mean he won’t be back in the future as injuries occur or players don’t live up to expectations.
“There was probably a good example of it last year,” Julien said, citing players like Vladimir Sobotka and Petteri Nokelainen, who started out last year in Providence, moved up to the NHL when injuries occurred, and are now frontrunners for roster spots.
“There are a lot of guys that we really have to work through,” he added, “and we have very little time to do that.” A Battle in Goal?
| Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. (AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper, file) |
After Manny Fernandez was sidelined by knee surgery for all but four games last season, Tim Thomas
stepped in goal and played the majority of the game minutes. But now that Manny’s healthy, the B’s have two outstanding goalies – and only one spot per game.
“Right now, they both play their games,” said Julien, who has been splitting playing time evenly between the two in the pre-season, “but we’ll have to make a decision there on who we want to start on Thursday.”
This sets up a very healthy competition between the two Bruins goalies.
“Everybody seems to think this is a battle here, and they are really competing against each other,” Julien said.
“I don’t know if they’re still pushing each other,” Julien mused, “but I think both of those guys want to play well in the last couple [exhibition games]” to try and get the opening night spot.
But Julien wants to be sure the “competition” aspect doesn’t overshadow the fact that, either way, the Bruins are in an excellent position.
“I know everybody wants to be number one, but if we’ve got two good goaltenders, we’re in a position of strength,” he said. “It’s a great situation to be in.”Just A Few More Days…
|Dennis Wideman Boston Bruins |
The regular season is approaching faster and faster, and with a 2-4-1 record in exhibition games, the big question seems to be if the B’s are ready.
“It’s an exhibition game where I think there are a whole lot of things going on right now that don’t make it easy for the players either,” Julien said. “There’s a situation there for a lot of uncertainty for certain players right now until they make those [cuts], so I think a part of that comes into play as well.”
Outside of the uncertainty, though, Julien knows there are things to work on.
“We can get better,” he said. “We’ll have that opportunity when we’ve got our team down to 22, 23 players.”
But the team is pretty confident about their abilities, and they’ll be pushing themselves even harder when the games are “real.”
“[We] already [have] a record better than last year in preseason,” said Milan Lucic
. “I think this group is more capable to take it up a notch once we start the season.”
“There are a couple little adjustments that we need to work on,” added Michael Ryder, who said he was glad to have one more game and some practice before opening night. “[But] they are just mostly minor things.”On The Other Side
|Scott Gordon |
Saturday’s game was the second time the Black & Gold faced former Providence coach Scott Gordon, now the new head coach of the New York Islanders.
“I did talk to him as soon as he got the job, and before he got the job obviously,” said Julien, also Gordon’s ex-teammate. “He’s one of those guys that’s worked really hard… ‘paid his dues,’ and he’s being rewarded for it.”
Having to assume many roles in Providence and, thus, gaining extra experience, is what Tim Thomas
thinks helped Gordon get the job.
“He’s a hard-working coach, and he goes over video a lot,” Thomas said. “In Providence, you’re your own video guy, and you’re your own assistant coach.
“Two guys are doing the job of six here at this level.
“He learned from whatever mistakes that he made,” Thomas said, who was then quick to add: “Not that I’m saying he made any, but I’m saying that some people don’t get any better, and he got better constantly.”