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Practice Notebook: First Back-to-Back Could See Chad Johnson Between the Pipes

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON, MA - The Bruins took to the ice at Ristuccia Arena on Monday morning to kick off a short break from game action, before their first back-to-back of the season coming up on Wednesday in Buffalo and at home against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

With all B's healthy, everyone hit the ice for the roughly hour and twenty-minute long session, to keep their skating legs fresh with a two-day layoff.

For Head Coach Claude Julien, he continues to have game-by-game decisions to make with the seven rotating defenseman, as well as up front with Carl Soderberg back and 13 healthy forwards at the ready.

Now, with the impending back-to-back, it could also give goaltender Chad Johnson his first start between the pipes in Black & Gold.

“Buffalo might be one of the games we give him,” Julien said following Monday's practice. “We haven’t made that final decision yet but I will put him on notice and give him probably an opportunity. We’re going to have to use him at some point and that might be a good chance for us to use him then.”

With an 8:00 p.m. game on the road in Buffalo on Wednesday night, the Bruins come back home to TD Garden to face the challenge of matching up against the San Jose Sharks (8-0-1) on Thursday.

Tuukka Rask would seem like the likely starter for that battle, though it wouldn't be uncommon to see him suit up in both. Buffalo, meanwhile, is searching for their second win of the season, having strung together one win in their first 10 games to start 2013-14.

“Obviously San Jose has been a real hot team. It’s a little unfortunate the way the schedule is – we've got an 8 o’clock game in Buffalo, we get in fairly late, and then you’re playing against one of the best teams in the league right now at home," said Julien. "But those are things that we can’t control and we just have to be ready for it.”

13 Healthy Forwards

"I think right now you saw Jordan [Caron] sitting out and I don’t think Jordan’s been a bad player for us, I think he’s played well. So certainly you don’t want guys sitting in the stands again for that long," said Julien, of a rotation possibly beginning with the forwards.

"And we’re talking about the early part of the season here – when everybody’s playing well, you want to get them in and keep everybody going because at one point, you’re going to run into some injuries and that’s also part of the game. You want those guys as ready as can be so we’re going to make some room for those guys to come in at times and it may not always be the same player."

"What’s good about it is we have players that we can put in and out that we know are not going to bring our team down a notch – or it’s not going to make our team worse. It just keeps our team – maybe even make them better because the guys that are coming in are hungry. So it’s a maneuver right now that I can afford to do and that I think is necessary for me to do right now."

Versatility on Defense

For the sake of repetition, by now, we know that the seven defensemen rotation will continue throughout the season. We've seen Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and veteran Adam McQuaid all be healthy scratches at some point in the first seven games. It's tough for anyone sitting out. It's obviously a great feeling whenever a blueliner gets back into the lineup.

"I think we’ve done a really good job of supporting one other; every guy that’s experienced it now. I think that’s the biggest thing, I’ve felt a lot of support from all the guys on the team and that meant a lot given the situation," said McQuaid.

It helps that all of the defensemen rotate with one another throughout practice and sometimes during games. It helps even more that Dennis Seidenberg, a left shot, can easily play either side of the ice. He often plays the left with Hamilton in, and the right side when paired with Bartkowski.

"It does, that’s one of the reasons that we’re capable of doing that, because he’s one of the guys that feels pretty comfortable there," said Julien. "I knew Torey’s played right side as well I think in the last year of college so he’s capable of moving there and you’ll probably see him play there a few times whether it’s a few shifts and that. So we’ve got some lefties that are capable of playing there and that helps a lot."

In the past, the seventh D may have sat for long stretches, like with Aaron Johnson last season.

So, 'what deems this group worthy of the rotation?' a reporter asked Julien.

"Because the guys that are sitting out are young, they’re prospects that we feel have had a lot of potential and a guy like [Matt] Bartkowski has paid his dues down there and you certainly don’t want him sitting out too long. [Dougie] Hamilton is another guy who belongs here, and so on so forth."

"So I think it’s important that those seven, in our mind, are really good and some of the other guys that we’ve had in the past have been told they’d probably be seventh and would be played sporadically when needed so it’s a little bit of a different situation this year."

Kelly's 30-Goal Pace?

Chris Kelly has three goals in seven games to start the season; it ranks first on the team, tied with Milan Lucic. The centerman had a career year for the Bruins in 2011-12 coming off a strong Cup run, with the first 20-goal season of his career.

With a hot start, is he feeling as confident now, as he did then?

"I hope so. I’m just trying to go out and play. Sometimes the bounces come, sometimes they don’t. It’s just about control working hard every game and try to make the right plays," said Kelly.

A reporter suggested that he's on pace for 30 goals.

"Woah, woah, woah, woah," the center laughed, cautioning a group of gathered media.

His confidence is definitely high, though, given his play.

"There’s no doubt that a guy who expects a lot out of himself and struggles, there’s no doubt there’s some pressure that you put on yourself, there’s also mood swings, so he seems a lot happier right now [than last season]," said Julien, with a smirk, referencing his oft dry-humored alternate captain.

"To me, when you look at the way our third line has been this year from training camp to now, it’s been an asset for our hockey team. It gives us another line that can certainly create a lot offensively and so it’s made a big difference. And obviously, Chris, the way he’s been playing right now, has really helped that line become that."

Practice Lines

White: Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla
Gold: Reilly Smith-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson
Grey: Carl Soderberg-Chris Kelly-Brad Marchand, Jordan Caron
Merlot: Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton

D: Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid

G: Tuukka Rask, Chad Johnson
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