In Tuesday's 5-3 win over Ottawa, Caron was a part of two key goals for the Bruins, doing the little things that don't always show up on the scoresheet but never escape the attention of a coach. And that can be much more important in keeping one's name on the lineup card.
Caron used his 6-foot-2, 202-pound frame to provide some needed net-front presence, camping out in the crease to screen Senators goalie Craig Anderson on Chris Kelly's late second-period goal that gave Boston its first lead of the night. He did it again on Johnny Boychuk's game-winner in the third.
"That's always what I try to do," said Caron, who turned 21 on Wednesday. "Sometimes the puck doesn't go in, but I still need to be in front. It just happened that the puck went in twice when I was in front, but that's always been part of my game, being in front trying to tip pucks and get rebounds. It was fun to get those two goals."
Caron actually was initially credited with an assist on Boychuk's tally, but it was changed to Rich Peverley after the game. It would have been Caron's first point of the season, but the youngster wasn't complaining.
"That's fine," Caron said. "There's no reason for me to have one if I didn't touch the puck, so it's all good. The puck was in the corner and I touched it a bit, but then Pev gave it to Kells and Kells gave it to Boychuk."
Caron has bigger issues on his mind, like earning a permanent spot in the lineup and playing a bigger role when he does dress. Caron has been a healthy scratch for five of the Bruins' first 11 games this year, returning to the lineup for the last two contests when Benoit Pouliot was sidelined with a cold.
Even when he's played, Caron has seen limited ice time. He's averaged just 8:51 and topped the 10-minute mark just twice. That's a big drop from his first stint with the club when he made the team out of camp last season. After playing 9:42 in his NHL debut in Prague, he never played less than 11:19 in the remaining 19 games he played before being sent to Providence in December.
Caron also had 3-4-7 totals in that first stretch in Boston. The inconsistent playing time has made it difficult for him to find his rhythm and get similar production this year, but he also knows that is something that most young players have to fight through.
"I think it is hard, I'm not going to lie," Caron said. "But that's part of the game and being a young guy, it's my second year pro and you have to go through things like that. For sure it's hard, but I just need to work through it and earn my spot."
Bruins coach Claude Julien admitted Thursday that it's tough to evaluate Caron's game given the lack of playing time, but he was pleased by the 2009 first-round pick's performance against Ottawa.
"I liked the way he played the last game," Julien said. "The little things he did he did well. He's a power forward that's strong on the puck and is also pretty good around the net at either tipping or finding loose pucks and that's been his strength. I like his game. It's hard to grade a guy when he's in the lineup one game and out the next. This is two games in a row for him now, and from the first to the second one he got better, so we hope that continues."
Caron hopes the opportunities continue as well, but he knows that's not up to him.
"That's not my decision," Caron said when asked if he wanted to play more. "I just need to play and keep things simple. That's what brought me here and I need to keep doing the same thing and we'll see what happens."
He also knows he needs to put together more than just one solid effort.
"That's just one game," Caron said of his performance against the Senators. "There's going to be ups and downs during the course of the season. You've just got to make sure there's more ups than downs. I've got to keep doing the same thing."
Helping Caron's cause is the fact that Pouliot has not done much to distance himself in the competition for the final spot up front. Pouliot has made better use of his 6-foot-3, 199-pound frame at times with 15 hits to Caron's six and also has 13 shots to Caron's three, but Pouliot is also without a point on the season and is a minus-3 while averaging 9:43 in eight games.
Thanks to Caron's improved play of late, Pouliot might have trouble getting right back into the lineup now that he's over his illness. But even though Caron and Pouliot have been the only healthy scratches up front so far this season, Julien was quick to point out that no one should feel comfortable with the Bruins still in last place in the East.
"I don't know you want to make it just a two-man competition, because right now it's going to be a situation where you have to play the guys that are playing well," Julien said. "We know that we have struggled out of the gate and a lot of guys have underperformed. At one point it will be about putting the guys in that should be in the lineup and the guys that aren't pulling their load or are struggling at the time will have to sit out. It looks like it could be those two, but I'd hate to say that it stops right there. I think it's more than that."
It's also possible that the Bruins could still recall help from Providence for additional competition. Zach Hamill is off to a strong start, leading the Baby B's with 5-5-10 totals through 11 games, while Carter Camper is 2-6-8 in 10 games and Lane MacDermid has 2-3-5 totals and 25 PIMs in 10 games.
Providence also signed veteran Chris Clark to a professional tryout deal this week. Clark was in camp with Boston on a tryout and was the final cut. His current deal leaves him free to sign with any NHL team, but the Bruins could revisit bringing him back. The players battling for spots are certainly aware of that possibility.
"He's a veteran," Caron said of Clark. "He's been around for a long time and is a very good player. We do have a good competition right now, so I think it's just going to be the same thing and you just need to play. You never know what's going to happen."