BOSTON - Rob O'Gara has been through it all before. Last year at this time, he was in a similar position - among the final youngsters competing for a spot on Boston's varsity roster.
And when the Bruins opened their season in Columbus, O'Gara was there to make his National Hockey League debut. He's hoping for a repeat this time around.
"It's a great opportunity," said O'Gara, who played in three games with Boston last year before heading to Providence for the remainder of the season. "We're close, but it's about finishing the job and the work you put in. Whatever happens, happens. If it's here, if it's in Providence, it's about continuing to progress and get better and making sure if it is Providence that you get back here as soon as possible."
O'Gara has been in a battle with Matt Grzelcyk and Paul Postma for the Bruins' last remaining spot on the back end, which was left open when Torey Krug suffered a jaw fracture in the second preseason game. But despite the high stakes, the 24-year-old blueliner said there has still been plenty of support for each other in the dressing room.
"Just trying to keep each other grounded and in the moment because we can only control what we're doing in practice, what we do in the weight room," said O'Gara. "Trying not to worry about what might come next. We have guys who went through it before, who went through it last year….it helps going through it with a bunch of guys."
Also among those awaiting word on the B's final roster is forward Jake DeBrusk, who is looking to secure a place alongside David Krejci and David Pastrnak.
"I'm here at the moment," said DeBrusk. "I still don't know. It's one of those things that I'm really nervous for. But at the moment, I'm talking to you right now, so I'm still here. It's one of those things you take day by day."
For Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy and the rest of Boston's brass, there will be no easy decisions.
"We feel the younger guys have played well," said Cassidy. "These are difficult decisions, who are you going to keep? Who do you project to be ready over the course of the last two, three weeks? Some you've had a longer look at because they've been down in Providence. You hope you've made the right call come Thursday if they're in the lineup for you."
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The Bruins did begin trimming down their roster on Monday as Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Danton Heinen were assigned to Providence. Veteran winger Teddy Purcell was also released from his professional tryout agreement.
"Did a nice job for us, but we feel the young kids have done a good job," Cassidy said of the 32-year-old, who tallied a goal in three exhibition contests. "They're going to get the nod there."
In addition, goalie Malcolm Subban was placed on waivers. The 23-year-old former first-round pick had, perhaps, the best preseason of his career, highlighted by a 24-save performance during a 4-2 win over Chicago at TD Garden.
But with incumbent backup Anton Khudobin also having a strong exhibition season, the decision was made to go with the veteran behind Tuukka Rask.
"I think we've been up front about there being a competition for the backup spot," said Cassidy. "But I've said it, Dobby came in and looked good right away. He was well-conditioned, was practicing well, and he played well. It's his spot. He earned it."
Cassidy did say there was noticeably more confidence in Subban's game this camp.
"He wants to play well, he stated it publicly, said he wants to play well for the Boston Bruins, not some other team," said Cassidy. "He wants to prove that he can do it at this level...his camp was good, better than in the past so that's why we're talking about him…let's hope that translates into a good push for us, competition at all those spots makes you a healthy organization. That's what we want out of Malcolm and he's given it to us so far."
Patrice Bergeron, Sean Kuraly, and Paul Postma all missed Monday's skate for maintenance purposes. Cassidy said all three "should be good to go tomorrow."
Austin Czarnik, who has been under the weather, also did not participate.
Monday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson/Peter Cehlarik - Anders Bjork
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Spooner - David Backes
Tim Schaller - Riley Nash - Noel Acciari
Frank Vatrano - Danton Heinen
Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
Kevan Miller - Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk - Adam McQuaid
Rob O'Gara - Emil Johansson