Bruins pare down roster, prep for opener

PRAGUE -- After beating HC Liberec 7-1 Tuesday night in their final exhibition game of the season, the Bruins held the first of three more practices before they officially open their 2010-11 NHL season against the Phoenix Coyotes here in Prague. With the NHL roster and salary cap deadline today at 3 p.m. ET -- where teams must trim their roster to

23 and be cap compliant to the $59.4 NHL Salary cap -- the Bruins trimmed their roster to 24 players following practice.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed to ESPNBoston.com that the team had assigned defenseman Matt Bartkowski to Providence (AHL). Both the Bruins and Coyotes are allowed to keep three goalies for the games in Prague, so goaltender Nolan Schaeffer will remain on the roster until the team returns to Boston. He will then be assigned to Providence as well, getting the Bruins down to the normal 23-man roster.

Prior to practice, Chiarelli praised Bartkowski for a solid camp, saying he was “close” to NHL ready but needs more seasoning down on the farm.

“He had a real strong camp,” Chiarelli said of the Ohio State product who the Bruins acquired in the Dennis Seidenberg trade at the 2009 NHL trade deadline. “He brings an element to our defense that we need a little bit of, and we told him that. He plays an up-tempo game and he has a lot of skill. It’s going to help him to go down. He’s very close.”

Following a rigorous practice, Bartkowski -- not knowing if he was going to be cut or not -- was prepared either way and maintained a positive outlook.

“I don’t really worry about it. If it happens, I’m just going to take it and do what I have to do to work my way back up,” the blueliner said. “All of the positives that I’ve learned here, I’m just going to take those down with me and work on them and earn my spot [in the NHL].”

There was no official confirmation that tough-guy forward Brian McGrattan, still with the team on a professional tryout, had made the team, but all signs indicate that he has and will be a welcome relief for incumbent sheriff Shawn “The Quiet Man” Thornton this season protecting the team’s star power on the ice.

The Bruins once again were switching up their defensive pairings but they kept the same forward lines they used against HC Liberec Tuesday night. Here’s what the team looked like up as they inch closer to the season opener Saturday.

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton

Blake Wheeler-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi Daniel Paille-Tyler Seguin-Jordan Caron/Michael Ryder Brad Marchand-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton/Brian McGrattan

Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk

Mark Stuart-Andrew Ference

Matt Hunwick-Dennis Seidenberg

Matt Bartkowski-Adam McQuaid

*McQuaid will be the seventh defenseman to start the season Saturday and Sunday.

Note that head coach Claude Julien switched Wheeler and Caron back and forth between the second and third lines Tuesday so it’s not yet known exactly how these lines will shake out, but the first line of Milan Lucic-David Krecji-Nathan Horton has remained relatively intact throughout camp so that is likely to be the top line Saturday against the Coyotes.