At least there's dexterity? Looking the Bruins without Mark Stuart

DJ Bean
December 08, 2010 - 10:11 pm

With Mark Stuart out for four-to-six weeks with a broken hand, the Bruins for the third time this season have lost a defenseman for an extended period of time. First, there was Johnny Boychuk from Oct. 23 to Nov. 18. More recently, the team lost Matt Hunwick for, you know, ever when they sent the 25-year-old to the Avalanche in exchange for Colby Cohen. If one were to meet the Bruins' estimation in the middle and assume that Stuart will miss exactly five weeks from Wednesday, the day of the announcement, the B's would be without his services for 16 games. Amidst the one-at-a-time manner in which players have dropped off the Bruins' blue line, it is no surprise that the Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont tweeted Wednesday that the team's efforts in the trade market will not be limited to solving salary cap issues. Dupont noted that the team could try to swing a deal with a Western Conference team -- he singled out the Stars and the Coyotes -- to grab a defenseman. Yet without having taken care of the first order of business -- dumping salary -- the team now instead must look at the in-house alternative for blueline help. Though the guess here (and likely everywhere else) is that Marco Sturm will be out of town before long, the team, cuffed by the cap, can only look to the kids of Providence for now. Matt Bartkowski, who had already gotten his free trip to the Europe when the B's brought him along for the final two preseason games, was not the lucky guy when it came time to choosing who would be recalled. Instead it was Steven Kampfer, one of the six guys they released from camp the day they left for Belfast. Kampfer has 16 points for Providence Bruins this season, good for second on the team. In speaking to the media following practice on Wednesday, Kampfer said the same thing any player stepping in due to injury says with the "I'm not trying to come in and replace _____" line. That makes plenty of sense, as he is smaller and less physical than Stuart. He's more of a puck mover, while Stuart's fists come in handy more than his hands. As far as skill sets go, that actually isn't a problem. If you think about it, and this dates back to last week's trade of Matt Hunwick, Kampfer isn't replacing Stuart. Adam McQuaid is. Kampfer is replacing his former Michigan teammate in Hunwick. McQuaid is the bigger, tougher and maybe safer defenseman, like Stuart. Kampfer fills the role of puck-mover that was left unoccupied following the trade of Hunwick. Another plus for Kampfer that isn't getting much attention -- and perhaps a factor in the team's decision to give him the call over Bartkowski -- is that he's a right-handed shot. With Kampfer in the lineup, the defense's dexterity is now even at three lefties and three righties. Considering they opened the season with Johnny Boychuk as the only righty on the blueline, they have, through injury and loss via trade, seen a bit more balance in one respect. It should also be interested in seeing how this impacts Stuart. He's playing on a one-year deal worth $1.675 million and is an unrestricted free agent at season's end. He took the one-year pact after missing 26 games last season with a broken left pinky and an infection in his pinky. The B's probably wanted to see Stuart stay healthy before they showed him the money (and the years), and Stuart likely wanted to sign a big contract -- the very one in which he'd play his prime years -- after a season that warranted a bigger deal. '€œI expected after the season that I had if I was going to get a deal it was going to be a one-year deal and then see how I played," Stuart said after signing the one-year deal in July. "Hopefully, I can have a great year this year and then hopefully, yeah, a long-term deal is in the future.'€ Stuart has averaged 16:43 of ice time, which is right around where he sat last season (17:01). He's got two assists, 23 penalty minutes, and is a plus-3 through 26 games.