BostonBruins.com - For the first time during training camp, besides a split-squad scrimmage, the Bruins were all joined together in one practice on Wednesday morning before traveling to Winnipeg for their final two preseason games against the Jets.
With 17 skaters on the ice, the first sets of line rushes saw the usual David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron lines, along with the Merlot Line.
For the third line, we saw Reilly Smith once again on the right wing, with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg.
The newcomer to the B's organization this summer has been getting the look on that line for the past two games, first in a 2-0 win in Detroit, and then in the 3-2 overtime win over the Capitals at TD Garden, where he assisted on Kelly's game-winner.
"It's been good so far; we've definitely gotten a little lucky on a couple of chances, especially Kells the other night on the OT winner," he said, before heading on the road to Winnipeg.
Smith always has the aura about him that he's just happy to be here, no matter how it turns out come opening night.
"You know, Kells and Carl are really good players, they work well together and so I'm just trying to help out when I can and if I can give them a little bit more space, then that's all the better."
A player with jam, grit and an ability to not shy away from the "dirty areas," he's also been labeled by General Manager Peter Chiarelli as "silky smooth." If the line sticks for the start of the regular season, the B's GM will be looking for the winger to also add some scoring - something he expects Soderberg can bring to the line as well.
"I think we play good together. I mean, I've played with the same [type] players - hardworkers - who protect the puck well and both Reilly and I can score and Kells, of course. But he’s more defensively a good player."
Kelly has always been a defense-first player, protecting his own zone and letting the offense come as a result. With Soderberg and whoever slots in on the right wing, whether it's Smith or another forward, their roles will help add scoring punch to the defensively-sound line.
While the trio is starting to mesh well on the ice, they're also getting to know each other better off the ice, and a road trip before the start of the season will only help.
"Absolutely, hanging out with the guys off the ice, it's one of those things that makes the biggest difference, because you know you're with each other a lot at the rink," said Smith. "And it just adds to it when you're hanging out off the ice and getting to know each other."
Third Line Swap
While Smith has complemented Kelly and Soderberg well, Coach Julien and the B's brass will want to due their due diligence with the other forwards still in the mix as opening night draws closer. That includes possibly putting Soderberg back at center, where he started camp. He's just as comfortable on the wing, but considering he played at center predominantly in Sweden, Julien wants to exercise all of his options during the final two preseason games.
That due diligence may also include slotting in other forwards in on the third line.
Besides Smith, newcomers Matt Fraser, Nick Johnson, Ryan Spooner, Jordan Caron and Matt Lindblad are still with Boston.
"I think we could swap guys in," Julien said of his third line. "We could leave them [Soderberg, Kelly and Smith] like that and see how much more we can get out of them. I think it’s a matter of balancing that."
"We really have to make sure that we give the other guys a good look too to be able to make that decision."
"There are other guys, the [Jordan] Carons could fit on that line, the [Matt] Frasers could fit on that line. There’s other guys – [Nick] Johnson who’s had a pretty good camp, so those are the guys I'm talking about in order to assess their play and that’s where we’re at right now."
"We were looking at players and some of those players also can be thirteenth forwards, could play on the fourth line or could play in areas where there’s injuries," Julien added.
"We’re obviously going to have an extra forward with us this year like we do every year. So you've got to be able to know that those guys can fit in to those kind of lines when needed."
Option for 14th Forward?
With the depth the Bruins have at forward right now, would they entertain the idea of having a 14th forward stay with the club?
Besides the depth already in Providence, the B's acquired Smith and Fraser over the summer in the deal with Dallas, signed Nick Johnson as a free agent, and inked Matt Lindblad as a college free agent back in the spring out of Dartmouth College.
"That’s actually a great question for Peter [Chiarelli]," remarked Julien, on the possibility of a 14th forward on the 23-player roster to start the season.
"You're right there, off the bat. Because it boils down to money and it boils down to cap, it boils down to a lot of things. So you're always going to hear coaches say it’s a healthy competition to have some extra guys. But at the same time, there’s there other part that you have to respect."