Aside from center Martin St. Pierre clearing waivers - ensuring he'll start the season in Providence - the Bruins' roster stood still going into yesterday's final home preseason game, leaving all the tough cuts for later this week.
Coach Claude Julien said he was still conferring with management, trying to figure out how he wanted his team to look for Thursday's regular-season opener at Colorado and also weighing ways to make room for Blake Wheeler, Nate Thompson, and Matt Hunwick.
The Bruins will run the clock right to Thursday's deadline trying to make up their minds.
"We've got some tough decisions to make," Julien said before the Bruins' 3-1 exhibition loss to the New York Islanders yesterday at TD Banknorth Garden. "I think part of it is not just what we're going to see on the ice but also making those decisions based on having to balance the salary cap and everything else. It's a little more complicated than saying we're cutting this guy and that guy and we're moving forward here."
Julien scheduled a practice for 10:30 a.m. today in Wilmington before the team was to travel to Washington for its final preseason game, against the Capitals at 5 p.m.
The thought was if the Bruins wanted to make room for Wheeler and his $3 million salary cap number, they would have to make a trade. Otherwise they would be forced to send him to the minors. Wing Peter Schaefer, defenseman Andrew Alberts, and forward P.J. Axelsson all looked like possible pieces to move.
But by the end of the day, all was quiet.
Wheeler acknowledged how frustrating it is to play at a high level but have other factors play a role in whether he makes the team. But ultimately he said it was out of his control.
"All you can do is the best you can, and there's no doubt I feel like I've done that," he said. "I'm happy about the camp I've had and the way I've performed and that's really all I can control."
Wheeler was on the ice for 12 minutes yesterday and Julien said, "I think if you look at our game tonight he was probably one of our best forwards.'
"It doesn't matter if you've got a one-year contract or a five-year contract, you've got to earn you spot every year."
Julien is trying to get as close as possible to the lines he's expecting to use in the regular season. Yesterday, he grouped Marco Sturm, Patrice Bergeron, and Phil Kessel together and skated Axelsson, Marc Savard, and Michael Ryder as usual. He also went with lines of Stephane Yelle, Chuck Kobasew, and Wheeler, and Milan Lucic, Vladimir Sobotka, and Thompson. "We're trying to get some lines together," Julien said. "But there's lines that have played together in the other games that you'll probably see again together once the season starts."
He also said any competition between Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez should be constructive, putting Thomas in the net against the Islanders and likely going with Fernandez today.
"I know everybody wants to be a No. 1," Julien said, "but if we've got two good goaltenders, we're in a situation of strength."
Thomas agreed, to a degree.
"It's necessary at this level to have two goalies," he said. "You need two goalies to contribute. One might contribute more than the other depending on what's going on. But both of them need to play well when they get the chance or else you're not going to make the playoffs."
Thomas said he hasn't sat down with anyone about a plan, and said even if there was one, with injuries and other circumstances, there's no guarantee it will work for an entire season. "The best-laid plans never work out," he said.
Former Providence Bruins coach Scott Gordon had a chance to reunite with his old organization for the first time since becoming coach of the Islanders in August. "He's paid his dues, and he's being rewarded for it," Julien said. "He's going to make that team a competitive team." . . . The Bruins exhibition record is 2-4-1 . . . Attendance for yesterday's game was 12,428.