Nick Johnson was placed on waivers by the club for purpose of assignment to Providence, leaving 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders currently with the club.
On Saturday following the final preseason trip to Winnipeg and Saskatoon, the B's had released Matt Fraser, Matt Lindblad, Ryan Spooner and Niklas Svedberg.
Reilly Smith looks poised for the third line role alongside Chris Kelly and a healthy Carl Soderberg (he's currently day to day after sustaining an injury during the game in Saskatoon when he hit a rut in the ice).
Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Kevan Miller round out the B's back end, along with the veterans, heading into the regular season.
But decisions still need to be made for the 20-player lineup we'll see for the home opener against Tampa Bay on October 3. And Head Coach Claude Julien has some time to mull those over, including the three days the team is spending in Vermont for a team-building trip.
"We’re going to Stowe right now, we’re going to do things and then by the time we get back, on Wednesday, we should more or less have an idea what we want to do here with our lineup," Julien said of his process.
Whatever decisions he makes, though, the B's have showcased depth heading into the season.
"Obviously we’re happy with what [the roster] looks like. I think we’re also happy that we’ve got some players that you may see here again, that made a good enough impression and that showed that they’re capable of playing with us," said Julien.
"For some, it’s just a matter of getting a little bit more experience and working on a few things so that’s just a matter of time."
"Other guys, it’s just a matter of numbers; being easy call-ups. There are some guys with experience that we can certainly rely on if need be."
"There’s no doubt knowing that guys can step in and do a good job here is refreshing for us," he added, of being comfortable with the range of call-ups now available in Providence, when injuries arise.
Johnson Primed to Be Back
One of those players is Nick Johnson.
"It’s not an easy conversation, no doubt," said Julien, of Johnson being released. "I think it’s one of those things that those kinds of players understand."
"He’s a real quality person, and in his mind he says, 'I’m going to keep working hard because I have a feeling I’m going to be back here this year'.” So there’s confidence in his voice and determination and that’s what you want to hear."
"I know he’s disappointed and you would hope he’s disappointed, but at the same time he seemed to have the right attitude to work his way back here."
Caron the 13th Forward
With Johnson being placed on waivers, it also means that Jordan Caron wasn't, and will get his chance as the 13th forward with the team to start 2013-14.
Depending on Soderberg's status, he could even have a chance to play in the home opener.
"The last couple of games, I thought there was a little bit more urgency in his game, in doing the things we talked about," Julien said of Caron, who capped of his camp with a goal in the 5-0 win over the Jets.
"His whole camp was what we know about Jordan; reliable and doing the things he has to do. But we asked him to do a little bit more."
"So, not just because he scored a goal, but he had some chances and we used him on the penalty kill and different areas. He seemed to generate a little bit more, but that has to continue."
"He’s 23 years old, he’s still a young player, and he’s a player that an organization doesn’t want to give up on too early. So we feel as coaches that we can help him improve and we’re going to work with him to make him improve in those areas."
While players like Caron still remain with the team, others will continue their development in Providence like Ryan Spooner.
The centerman showed Julien and the B's brass that he worked on the areas they wanted him to, "as far as being a little bit more determined to take pucks away and then getting in there and then coming out with a puck."
"He’s got to go there [to Providence] and show us that he’s going to continue to do that on a regular basis."
"You see those kinds of things for a while and then the old spots on the leopard show up again. So, we have got to make sure it's engrained in him."
"Once he does that and it becomes second nature, he’ll be that much better and he’ll definitely be an NHL player so, he will play. Sometimes you hear me say certain things about certain guys. He’ll play in the NHL. He’s got a lot of talent. He’s just got to polish his game a bit."
Smith Earns Spot on Third Line
"The third line looks how I envisioned it. It's nice to see that there's a little bit of chemistry there, with Soderberg and Smith, and Kells," General Manager Peter Chiarelli said this past Friday night from Saskatoon.
Smith is looking forward to keeping it that way.
"You always want to extend your game. Playing with Kells and Söderberg, it’s great, they’re two really talented players and they help me a lot. So it’s a competitive atmosphere and I just like to be part of it," said the winger.
"They gave me an opportunity to play with those guys and just be able to give me a good look at it. So just grateful for that opportunity, and try to not screw it up."
"It's probably the easiest thing, to just lay back and act like the hard part is over," said Smith of cracking the roster. "But it’s the exact opposite. Just making this team, it was a big challenge, but sticking with it is a whole different story."
Chad Johnson Backing up Rask
In 2012-13, Julien was comfortable with the tandem of Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, with the backup sharing some of the load between the pipes.
He sees that same approach happening with Rask and Chad Johnson. It's a fluid process.
"I say that every year. I’m not a coach that kind of says, 'Okay, you have so many games.' And, like I do with the team, I also look at my goaltenders," said Julien.
"Sometimes [Tuukka] looks like he’s fresh and other times he may look tired and I’d rather make that decision then, than look too far ahead."
"And that’s not to say that during that week I say, 'Well maybe we can use him for these games and we’ll use the other goaltender for those ones.' I do those things but I don’t necessarily stick to them as if it’s carved in stone. So I like to make decisions based on what I see and feel and what I think is right."