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Major step for Spooner?

A return to juniors not a given for center

Tuukka Rask stopped 34 of 36 Ottawa shots in the Bruins’ exhibition opener. Tuukka Rask stopped 34 of 36 Ottawa shots in the Bruins’ exhibition opener. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / September 22, 2011

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OTTAWA - It would be a very good year for Ryan Spooner if he lights it up for Kingston, makes the Team Canada roster for the World Junior Championship, then joins Providence for the end of the season.

The Bruins prospect is aiming at making it a great year.

For that to happen, Spooner would have to muscle out a veteran - Chris Kelly is in his crosshairs - to earn a roster spot with the big club. The center must be returned to juniors if he doesn’t make the Bruins. That option has not been ruled out.

Last year, Spooner was the top eye-opener in camp. The 45th pick in the 2010 draft, he wasn’t assigned back to junior until Sept. 28, a week or two later than the Bruins bosses expected. Management and the coaching staff cited Spooner’s poise and hockey sense as traits that allowed him to extend his stay in Boston.

This year, Spooner is a bigger, stronger, and more confident player. The 19-year-old stands the best chance of the club’s junior-eligible teenagers to kick off his NHL career this season.

“Obviously this guy’s got more confidence this year than he did last year,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Last year, we were pretty impressed with his first camp.

“He’s starting to feel comfortable at this level. He definitely has great hockey sense. He seems to find the areas of where to put the puck. He makes good decisions pretty well all over the ice.’’

The catch, however, is that Spooner’s NHL presence isn’t a requirement. The Bruins have a 1-2 punch at center in David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron. Kelly is a valuable two-way pivot currently earmarked for the third-line job. Gregory Campbell, rough as a sheet of sandpaper, has the No. 4 spot on lockdown. Tyler Seguin has been taking most of his camp reps at center, where he could play if the Bruins want a more offensive presence in the middle.

Rask stars in loss The Bruins dropped their exhibition opener, 2-1, in overtime to the Senators last night at Scotiabank Place. Mika Zibanejad scored the winner at 3:17 of OT.

But neither Tuukka Rask nor his boss had any issues with how he played. Rask stopped 34 of 36 shots.

“He certainly wants to win himself a spot where we can use him a lot more,’’ Julien said. “I thought he was good tonight. They took it to us, for the most part. He was able to stand tall and keep us in the game.’’

It was Rask’s first game since April 10, the 2010-11 regular-season finale. Last night, Rask was square to shooters and stopped attempts with ease. His best save came in the second when he flashed his glove to foil Mark Parrish.

“Good to get back in game action and see a lot of shots,’’ Rask said. “I didn’t feel too bad.’’

Lane MacDermid scored Boston’s only goal.

Corvo cools it Joe Corvo didn’t skate yesterday at Ristuccia Arena. He suffered a mild groin strain in the first period of the Black and White scrimmage Monday. Krejci left practice early yesterday, also complaining of groin tightness. Julien termed both cases standard occurrences in training camp . . . Zdeno Chara practiced yesterday. Chara suffered a bruise on the inside of his left leg Monday . . . The Bruins made six cuts yesterday. Tyler Randell, Yannick Riendeau, Calle Ridderwall, Kyle MacKinnon, and Stefan Chaput were assigned to Providence. Anthony Camara was returned to his junior team in Saginaw.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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