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BOSTON (CBS) – The tiny bit of hockey-free time carved out between Fourth of July and Labor Day is officially over.
Bruins players, who have already been skating for a couple weeks together in informal practices, will officially report to Boston Wednesday for off-ice testing and physicals. They’ll hit the ice under the tutelage of the coaching staff Thursday at the TD Garden.
For the first time in awhile, there are actually some new faces, notably Jarome Iginla and Louis Eriksson, to talk about. And there are actual position battles to debate, including a bottom-six forward spot and two defense spots considering Andrew Ference has left and the sixth spot last year belonged to rookie Torey Krug.
Without further ado, here are three questions I don’t have the answers to yet entering camp. I’ll be watching closely to see how things pan out for the Boston Bruins.
1. Which rookie defensemen are for real and which still need polish?
Every longshot in hockey and Boston sports seemingly gets compared to Krug. Although Krug was a great story last postseason, there are no guarantees he’ll be in Boston at the start of this season or ever become an NHL regular. We’ll find out early what his impact will be this season, as he competes with the likes of Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski for a regular role. Mike Moore, Joe Morrow and Zach Trotman will also try to crash the party.
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2. Where’s Carl?
We waited so long for Carl Soderberg to come to North America, we were bound to be underwhelmed. However, we saw flashes of his offensive skills when he got into the lineup in the Stanley Cup finals. And with a training camp to get acclimated to the Bruins, Soderberg might prove he belongs in the lineup every night. Many project him for the third line, and he really shouldn’t be slotted any lower than that on the depth chart. But could a strong camp earn him a top-six slot? Could we see him bump Iginla, Eriksson or even Brad Marchand to a third-line role? It’s not likely. But Soderberg’s not likely to go to Providence and would be wasted on the fourth line. Of course, first he has to prove he can play at a high level and then the Bruins can make the difficult decisions.
3. What’s Iginla got left?
Let’s face it, some of the Pittsburgh Penguins players were snake-bit against the Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals. Iginla wasn’t in that group. He was point-less and invisible. It’s been a while since he played for a contender from the start of the season and the Bruins are banking on him scoring at a 30-goal pace. Will he press too hard? Will he start showing his 36 years? Even a quick start to the season won’t mean anything until we see what Iginla has left in the tank in the playoffs. But the bigger concern is getting the necessary production from him from the outset to prove that Boston’s plan for replacing Nathan Horton was the right one.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.