Bruins have questions to be answered

Phil Kessel's future just one question facing Bruins

September 13, 2009, 5:03 PM

By: Matt Kalman

BOSTON -- If the fact that the Boston Bruins were on the TD Garden ice Sunday for the first practices of their 2009 training camp wasn't enough to convince you it's hockey season, a couple of Zdeno Chara glass-shaking hits and a few Tim Thomas pad saves had to have done the trick.

Yes, it was back to work for many members of the 2008-09 Bruins, who came up short of their goals this spring after one of the best regular seasons in franchise history. A couple of faces have changed, and one (holdout Phil Kessel) is still in limbo, but for the most part this is the same club, which means most of these players still have something to prove.

If you can believe it, after practicing Sunday and Monday, the Bruins play their exhibition opener in New York on Tuesday night against the Rangers. So there's not a lot of time for the Bruins' brass to assess what they have before they have to compete against another club.

Here's a quick-hit list of issues the Bruins have to resolve between now and the start of the regular season less than three weeks from now:

Phil Kessel

James Guillory/US Presswire

Phil Kessel led the Bruins last season with 36 goals.

1. Is Phil Kessel a Bruin or not? The holdout winger has been the subject of more offer-sheet and trade rumors than any other free agent this offseason. Signs point to him being on the way out, but stranger things have happened.

2. Who's No. 2? We know Vezina Trophy winner Thomas is the starting goaltender, and he'll get 50-55 starts this season. Whether he'll be backed up by veteran Dany Sabourin or rookie Tuukka Rask remains to be seen. Ideally, Rask makes the leap to the NHL to get a head start on what everyone expects will be a star-caliber career.

3. Can Sturm still storm the net? The absence of Kessel will be less painful if winger Marco Sturm can come all the way back from last year's knee surgery and provide the speed and scoring he was known for before the injury.

4. Who's killing? With penalty-kill specialists Stephane Yelle and P.J. Axelsson gone, and David Krejci still rehabbing his surgically repaired hip, the Bruins' much-improved penalty kill is going to need some personnel changes up front. Free-agent signee Steve Begin should be in the mix along with Sturm, Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard and Blake Wheeler.

5. Is there a dark-horse player waiting to make the club? Two years ago, Milan Lucic made the jump from major juniors to the NHL, and last season Wheeler skipped over the AHL on his way to regular ice time with the Bruins in his first year of pro hockey. There might not be any breakthroughs that dramatic this year, but forwards Brad Marchand and Zach Hamill, and defensemen Jeff Penner and Andrew Bodnarchuk -- who all spent last season with Providence (AHL) -- will all take a shot at earning an NHL job.

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