PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- At any time this season, if the Boston Bruins need defensive help from their AHL affiliate in Providence, any one of the P-Bruins' top six defensemen could handle the job.
The P-Bruins have Matt Bartkowski, Steven Kampfer, Jeff Penner, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Nathan McIver and Yury Alexandrov on the blue line. All have been solid in the early part of the 2010-11 season in Providence.
When Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk was recently sidelined with a fractured left forearm, P-Bruins coach Rob Murray didn't know whether one of his six blueliners would get the call, especially with Adam McQuaid already in Boston as the team's seventh D-man and a healthy scratch for the first six games of the season.
McQuaid, who played 19 games for the Bruins last winter, made his season debut against the Maple Leafs on Thursday.
If Boychuk hadn't fractured his arm, there was a possibility McQuaid would have joined tough guy Brian McGrattan in Providence this weekend for a conditioning stint. But since McQuaid played, and played well, on Thursday, he likely will remain Boston's sixth defenseman.
"McQuaid deserves a lot of credit for the way he played," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Thursday's 2-0 victory over the Maple Leafs. "I thought he had an outstanding game. He was solid defensively. He was up ice and supported the attack and got pucks in. He had a great game, and that's rewarding for a guy working hard after practices to stay on top of his game."
Back in Providence, Kampfer has been especially impressive. The former University of Michigan standout continues to hone his skills and has made a seamless transition to the pro game. After he completed his collegiate career this past spring, the Bruins assigned him to Providence, where he played the final six games of the season.
During that brief stint, he was one of the top players on the ice, which was a pleasant surprise for the Bruins' hockey operations staff.
"A lot of times, we'll see a guy come in and he plays so well the first game but then it kind of falls away real quick," Murray said. "In the end, it kind of all averages out. [Kampfer] came in and played well all six games for us. I was surprised how well he made the transition from college to pro and how effective he was. He's on the right track a lot quicker than maybe some other guys are."
Kampfer, 22, impressed again during Bruins training camp last month and served as captain for the organization's rookie games against rookies from the New York Islanders. Entering Friday's game in Providence, he had one goal and four assists for five points in the first six games of the season.
"Steve's been good," Murray said. "He had the benefit of spending some time with us last year, and because of that, even in training camp, you could see that little extra confidence in his game. He's come down here with a good attitude and he's worked hard. He's been good."
Kampfer is a solid two-way player, and he credits his time in Providence last season, along with a solid training camp this season, for boosting his confidence.
"Playing with the guys in Boston during training camp helped a lot," he said. "It kind of made me realize that I can play a little more patient and I don't have to rush things down here. I've tried to keep that going through the first six games so far.
"Once you've got a little bit of confidence up there, it definitely helps. Getting sent down here has helped my confidence. I've been getting a lot of ice time, and I think I've done a pretty good job so far. I'm going to continue to do that. I just need to keep producing and keep playing well to keep earning those minutes."
Kampfer is a leader, and even during Friday's morning skate at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, he was taking charge on the ice. If he can continue to develop and impress, he'll get a call to Boston sooner rather than later when the Bruins need him.
When Boychuk suffered the injury, it was tough to keep the thought of playing in the NHL off his mind.
"You always hope that you're going up, but you don't want someone to get hurt," Kampfer said. "Johnny's a great player, and when we heard he got hurt and he was going to be out for four weeks, it's a blow for Boston and you don't want to hear anything like that. That's the bad part of the job; you hate hearing guys getting hurt, but at the same time, you realize it could be an opportunity for someone to step up, and hopefully you can step up and be that guy who goes up and makes a difference."
The Anaheim Ducks originally selected Kampfer in the fourth round (93rd overall) of the 2007 NHL entry draft. The Bruins acquired him in a trade on March 2 in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick. Boston made out in that deal, and Kampfer will prove the Bruins right once he's given an opportunity at the NHL level.
"I try not to think about it," he said. "I try to keep everything day by day. I try to work on the little things and keep continuing to get better. If I get called up, it'll be pretty special."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.