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B's Make Roster Cuts, Get Down to 24-Man Roster

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - On Friday night in Saskatoon, the Bruins capped off their preseason with a 5-0 shutout of the Winnipeg Jets and a 6-1 record.

With the final tune-up, it also brought the inevitable: roster cuts.

On Saturday morning, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced that forwards Matt Fraser, Matt Lindblad and Ryan Spooner have been released from camp, along with goaltender Niklas Svedberg.

Chiarelli talked with the players on the plane heading back to Boston. All will join the Providence Bruins training camp currently underway.

The "Opening Night Roster" needs to be submitted to the league on October 1, and Chiarelli told a small gathering of reporters in Saskatoon on Friday night that Boston will probably carry 23 players (the league limit), consisting of 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders.

That leaves one more forward - Jordan Caron or Nick Johnson - being tabbed as the "13th forward." Both would need to clear waivers to go to Providence.

"Versatility, first and foremost," said Chiarelli, on what he and his staff are looking for from the B's final forward, the healthy scratch who keeps himself game-ready in case he gets the call.

"It's a tough decision because there's three or four guys who had good camps. I know there are two guys who you've been focusing on, Johnson and Caron, and I think they both played well."

"Both defensive responsibility, they both have that size, they both have that experience; one guy has more than the other. Style of play is a little bit different, so that's tough. That player doesn't play often, but with injuries, may have to get in there."

Both Caron and Johnson potted goals in the B's 5-0 win over the Jets, not making the decision any easier for Chiarelli, Julien and the B's brass.

"I think, as you grow up as a player in your career, they're always watching, right? So it's kind of hard to remove yourself from that completely, but you have to learn over the years to be able to put it aside," said Johnson, after potting his [fifth] goal of the preseason in the 5-0 win over Winnipeg, with roster decisions looming.

"So, just try to do that, and play, and whatever happens, happens."

Svedberg to Providence

The backup battle between Niklas Svedberg and Chad Johnson during the preseason was neck and neck.

'Would it be better for Svedberg's development to get more games in the AHL versus 20 or so with Boston?' a reporter asked Chiarelli Friday night in Saskatoon, before the B's announced that the netminder was released from camp on Saturday morning.

"Generally speaking, yeah, at his age," Chiarelli said of the 24-year-old. "He probably wouldn't like to hear that. Both of them want to play."

Svedberg didn't require waivers to go to Providence; Johnson would have.

It was a discussion Chiarelli had with his staff, weighing the options.

"Chad needs waivers; Nik doesn't," the GM said on Friday night. "They both had strong camps. Just on a per minute played basis, Nik played better, but Chad played well, that game in Detroit he played well. So it gives me a comfort they played well over the course of camp. That means we have some depth there."

Keeping Eight Defenseman

With only eight blueliners currently on Boston's roster, it looks like the back end will stick for now. Included with the veterans are Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Kevan Miller.

"He's a strong, physical D-man. He's physically mature, he can handle guys, he can close well, so he played well," said the GM, of Miller's play.

Third Line Meshing

Reilly Smith has all but cemented himself - for now - on the third line with Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly.

"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," said Chiarelli.

Spooner Staying Patient

Ryan Spooner impressed at the B's camp, making his case to stay with the big club. But the depth at center with David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell doesn't leave much room at his natural position, where the Bruins think he operates best.

The crafty centerman showed his vision - and his top-six potential.

"Spooner played well," Chiarelli said, after the 5-0 win in which the center had to fill in alongside Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla with Krejci staying out due to back spasms ("nothing serious").

"Tonight was more average than he had been playing; he was matching up against better lines tonight. He had a real good year last year, he had an average playoff. So it was good to see."

"I expected more of him in Florida at the rookie tournament but he had a real good camp here. So he’s one that, with his pedigree I would have expected it, but it was nice to see it after what I saw in the playoffs and the rookie tournament."

"Obviously coming into camp, my goal was to make the team," Spooner said in Winnipeg on Thursday, when I asked him about his view on the tough situation, knowing the B's depth at his position.

"But at the end of the day, if it doesn't happen obviously I think I played well enough to at least get the chance to come up here if something happens. But, that being said, I have to go back down and work on things they want me to."

For Spooner, that will be his consistent all-around game - to keep improving his puck pursuit and battling to go along with his already high-end offensive talents.

Fluid Roster; Getting Cap Compliant

The Bruins are currently over the cap by about $1.7 million. They'll need to get under the cap by October 1, when the opening night rosters are submitted by the NHL teams.

"Again, roster's fluid. Just because we start with a roster on October 1, we have some machinations to do with the LTI," said Chiarelli.

Meaning, there is some paperwork to be done before putting Savard on long-term injured reserve (his cap hit is about $4 million), and we could see a different roster on September 30 or October 1, than we do on October 3 for the home opener against Tampa Bay.

"There's going to be a couple of those, yeah," said Chiarelli, of the 'paper transactions,' that could possibly include Dougie Hamilton briefly being sent to Providence. Don't be alarmed; the GM intends to have eight D to start the season, though things could always change.

"That's why I say, what you see on the 30th or the 1st may not be what you see on the third, but it will be pretty darn close."

Lindblad, Fraser Primed for Call-Up Duties

Every player at this level wants to be in the NHL. Both Matt Lindblad and Matt Fraser, cut today from Boston's camp and joining the Providence Bruins' camp, are not out of place skating alongside NHL players, but are faced with the depth of the Bruins' roster. 

Still younger in their careers - Lindblad entering his first year pro, and Fraser entering his third year of professional hockey - one can see how consistent playing time with Providence could benefit their development. 

Fraser, new to Boston's system, will learn much with P-Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy and crew, and Lindblad will hone his already solid all-around game. The only crutch is that those of us in Boston won't get to watch it unfold.

When Boston faces injuries, as so often happens with every team throughout the course of an 82-game season, they'll get the call.

"I’m impressed with I guess his hockey sense. He’s smart and he’s a calm individual and he is 23 years old, he’s not coming in here as a 19 year old so there’s a maturity level there that’s helped him along the way too," Julien said of Lindblad, after the first few weeks of training camp. "But I think I’ve been impressed on how he reads the play and he’s always seemed to be in the right position."

"Whether he’s here or he’s not, this guy will play in the NHL. He’s too good of a player; he’s too smart of a player not to play in this league so we’re having a close look. Maybe he doesn’t stay but at least we feel comfortable with him maybe being a call up. So this is where we have to look at some of those guys."

"At the end of the day you might say, 'well, he might benefit more from playing some more pro games and playing more often.'"

Chiarelli Pleased with Depth

There is never too much stock in preseason records, but the Bruins impressed Chiarelli throughout training camp, especially with the depth the GM anticipates heading into the regular season.

"Yeah, generally," said the GM, of being happy with what he saw. "When we made the trade with Dallas, we knew we were, besides Loui, getting a couple of good players [in Smith and Fraser]. We knew that depth would be better."

"You know, I talked about Spoons in a little bit of a lull there in the playoffs and rookie tournament. I knew that would come around, he's a good player. But yeah, I'm happy. You know, even before tonight, with the D that we cut. There were some good D in there. Trotman had a good camp."

"So yeah, depth is good."

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