The Bear Cave

September 13, 2009 7:59 AM

The Boys are Back in Town

The Boston Bruins are back! On Saturday morning, the 2009-10 version of the club checked into Boston for the off-ice testing portion of training camp, in preparation for their on-ice workouts. The on-ice work begins on Sunday, as the Bruins will be broken up into two separate groups. The first set of players will hit the ice at 10:00, followed by group two at 12:30. All of Sunday's action takes place at the TD Garden.

This season's training camp has a group of 54 different players participating. There are 31 forwards, 16 defensemen, and seven goaltenders. In a matter of a little more than two weeks, that number will be down to somewhere between 21 and 23, as the 2009-10 NHL team will be in place for opening night on October 1st against the Washington Capitals. Approximately 20 of the remaining 31-33 players will make their way to Providence at some point during the next few weeks, as they will prepare for an AHL season with the Providence Bruins. The remainder of the players will head back to juniors, as a professional career will still be at least one year away. Unless they make the big club, players under the age of 20 will be forced to return to juniors, as AHL rules prohibit anyone in the teens until their junior seasons are completed. Seven players currently fall into that category, while two others still have one season of junior eligibility left.

Cracking the NHL lineup will be quite the challenge for players on the fence, as the majority of the 2008-09 roster is back with the team.

Most observers are anticipating that Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask will be the tandem in goal, but don't sleep on Dany Sabourin, as he could make a strong push at Rask with a solid training camp. Kevin Regan will most likely be the backup in Providence, with Matt Dalton and Adam Courchaine also in the mix. At age 19, Michael Hutchinson will be returning to the OHL's Barrie Colts.

On defense, the Bruins return five players from last year's club - Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Matt Hunwick, Mark Stuart, and Dennis Wideman. With the acquisition of Derek Morris, that really only leaves one (possibly two) open roster spots on the blueline. The three early favorites for that final spot are Johnny Boychuk, Drew Fata, and Andy Wozniewski. After two full seasons in Providence, Adam McQuaid could also make a run at that position, while Andrew Bodnarchuk and Jeff Penner will likely be headed for a second full season at the AHL level. Alain Goulet, Rob Kwiet, and Zach McKelvie should also be Rhode Island bound. Ryan Button is the lone youngster in the defensive group, and he will be returning to the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders.

Offensively, the top nine players on the depth chart are all but automatic. They are: Patrice Bergeron, Chuck Kobasew, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder, Marc Savard, Marco Sturm, and Blake Wheeler. Six of those players had at least 20 goals last season, Sturm and Bergeron have each had 20-goal seasons in the past, and Lucic will be a member of this organization for a long time. Steve Begin and Shawn Thornton will likely be sure bets as well, as they have both been at the NHL level for the past two years and counting. That leaves two or three roster spots open (depending on Krejci's status). With his performance at the end of last season, Byron Bitz is definitely next in line, and should be in the lineup on a regular basis. Following him is Vladimir Sobotka, who lost out on last season's opening night roster because of a numbers game. If Boston decides to carry one more extra forward, that slot could belong to Zach Hamill, Mikko Lehtonen, Brad Marchand, or Trent Whitfield.

Moving down to the American Hockey League, the final four players mentioned above will likely spend the majority of the 2009-10 campaign with the Providence Bruins. The nine players slated to join them are: Jordan Knackstedt, Drew Larman, Guillaume Lefebvre, Jeff LoVecchio, Lane MacDermid, Kirk MacDonald, Matt Marquardt, Levi Nelson, and Yannick Riendeau. With a November 16th birthday, Jamie Arniel could make his way to Providence at some point during the season. If not, he, Jordan Caron, Tyler Randell, Max Sauve, and Jason Wilson will all spend this year in juniors.

The 2009-10 Boston Bruins will have to get familiar with each other quickly, as the first two games of the preseason take place on Tuesday and Wednesday of this coming week. Games will be a major portion of the preseason this year, as those two tilts kick off a stretch of eight games in twelve days. The Bruins will see four teams during training camp, meeting up with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens, and New York Rangers twice each, while also battling the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs once. Tuesday night's game is a 7:00 face-off against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and Wednesday's is a 7:00 contest with the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

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