NHL.com continues its preview of the 2013-14 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.
Niklas Svedberg is the man in the middle for the Boston Bruins.
Not in the way being "in the middle" is typically associated with hockey, of course. Svedberg is a 24-year-old goaltender who has built a strong resume in his native Sweden and the American Hockey League, but his path forward with the Bruins remains murky.
Svedberg is competing with Chad Johnson, who was signed to a one-year, $600,000 contract in the offseason, to be Tuukka Rask's backup for the Bruins this season.
"We need to still look at [Svedberg] closely and decide which one of the two we're going to start with anyways," coach Claude Julien said before Svedberg was scheduled to start for the Bruins in a preseason game Thursday night.
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Rask also signed a contract this summer, and there are 56 million reasons why he's likely to be the No. 1 guy in Boston for the foreseeable future. The obvious path for Svedberg in another organization would be to go back for a second season in the AHL and more seasoning, but the Bruins also have Malcom Subban, a first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and he will be a rookie for Providence this season.
Svedberg posted a 2.17 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in his first season with Providence, though his play also slipped in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He had two strong seasons with Brynas in the top division in Sweden before that.
The Bruins could opt to keep Johnson, who is on a one-way contract and would have to pass through waivers, and let Svedberg and Subban split the playing time in the AHL. Other clubs have had two top goaltending prospects and the options -- let them split time in the AHL or send one to the ECHL -- have played to mixed reviews.
Given Rask's contract and Subban's pedigree, it is certainly plausible Svedberg's future could lead him to another organization. For now, he's focused on the task at hand, and he wants to be in the NHL this season.
It might mean only playing 15-20 games while Rask handles the bulk of the work, but Rask looked like he would be in the same position not that long ago with Tim Thomas firmly entrenched in Boston.
"No, I mean it's two different leagues," Svedberg said. "I want to be in the best League, which is the NHL. So that's my goal and first I'll focus on the game [Thursday night]. And I'll take it after that."