Time is dwindling for Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien to decide the team's final roster before the season opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 3 at TD Garden.
Offensively, there are two wing positions open on the third line, along with another as the healthy scratch. Six of the seven players battling for those spots were in the lineup during Boston's 3-2 overtime preseason win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night at MTS Centre in Winnipeg.
While Bruins forward Loui Eriksson scored the game-winning goal, it was Ryan Spooner, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, Matt Lindblad, Jordan Caron and Nick Johnson who all received plenty of ice time in the team's second-to-last exhibition game. Carl Soderberg, the other competitor for a spot, will be in the lineup Friday.
Spooner was impressive again. He scored a goal and assisted on Eriksson's game-winning goal. Spooner also used his speed effectively, won battles and put the puck into open areas to allow his linemates to win the foot races. As well as he has performed during camp, the Bruins are loaded at the center position with David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell as the men in the middle.
Julien recently said Spooner needs to focus on his game and make sure management has a tough decision when the final cut is made. He has done that, so it's going to be interesting to see how the Bruins handle that final decision on whether to keep Spooner in the mix or send him to Providence of the AHL.
Between the pipes, Niklas Svedberg played his first complete game of the preseason and played well. He's battling fellow goalie Chad Johnson for the backup role behind starter Tuukka Rask. Svedberg finished with 26 saves and made several quality stops.
Thursday's line combinations:
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson
Jordan Caron-Matt Lindblad-Reilly Smith
Matt Fraser-Ryan Spooner-Nick Johnson
Kevan Miller-Torey Krug
Matt Bartkowski-Dougie Hamilton
DOING WHAT HE DOES: When Bruins forward Gregory Campbell was given clearance to return to game action, he said he would not hesitate to block shots. It's been a little more than three months since he suffered a broken right leg while blocking a shot in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. When he returned earlier in the preseason, Campbell admitted he's been thinking about that part of his game, but he wouldn't change his game. He proved that in the first period against the Jets when he slid and blocked a slap shot. Campbell was also reunited with his linemates Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille for the first time this preseason.
ICYMI: Former Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and the Florida Panthers agreed Thursday on a one-year deal worth a base salary of $2.5 million, which could increase if the 39-year-old reaches certain performance bonuses. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner and 2011 Stanley Cup champion last played on April 25, 2012, when the Bruins lost to the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Bruins play at Florida on Oct. 17, before the Panthers visit Boston on Nov. 7.
UP NEXT: The Bruins will conclude their exhibition season when they face the Jets Friday night in Saskatoon. Tuukka Rask will start and is expected to play the entire game for Boston.
TEAM BUILDING: The Bruins will participate in their annual two-day, team-building activities on Monday and Tuesday in Vermont.