Claude Julien Looking at Tyler Seguin, Blake Wheeler to Fill Open Slot at Center


Claude Julien Looking at Tyler Seguin, Blake Wheeler to Fill Open Slot at Center The bad news for the Bruins is that they've got a major hole up front with Marc Savard sidelined indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome symptoms.

The good news is they have no shortage of options to fill that void, and coach Claude Julien plans to take a closer look at as many of them as possible in his club's two preseason games against Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We've got some different options here," said Julien in a conference call on Monday afternoon. "I think one of the things we want to see here is maybe Tyler Seguin can be looked at center as well. We've had him at wing, but he's a natural centerman. He's one of the guys we can look at. There's also Joe Colborne and Zach Hamill. At the same time, we've still got Blake Wheeler. [Ryan] Spooner is still here. There are a lot of guys that we still have to make decisions on in the next couple of days."

Perhaps the two most likely options to round out a center corps that already features David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Greg Campbell are two talented young players seen most recently on the wing.

Seguin, the No. 2 pick in this June's draft, has lived up to expectations so far in his first pro camp while playing on the wing alongside Bergeron and Mark Recchi. He scored Boston's first goal in his Garden debut with the varsity against Florida on Saturday and could ease into NHL life in that position. But Seguin is a natural center, having played there in junior and also in the Bruins' rookie camp. He certainly has the talent to jump right into the middle of Boston's third line.

Wheeler has to go back a bit further on his resume to find his experience in the pivot. He's played wing almost exclusively in his first two pro seasons in Boston, but was a center in his college days at the University of Minnesota. At 6-foot-5, 208 pounds, Wheeler would add some size otherwise lacking down the middle, and he has been seeing some time at center in camp.

Those two may be Boston's top options, but Julien won't dismiss youngsters Colborne, who has good size himself at 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, Hamill and surprising 18-year-old Spooner just yet.

"I'd still like to see Tyler Seguin play center again now that he has a few games under his belt, to see how he handles it," said Julien. "I'd still like to see Blake Wheeler play center as well at some point and see if he can recapture his comfort zone that he had when he played that position when he was in school. Obviously, there's Joe Colborne and those kinds of guys that have got to get a few more games to give them an opportunity."

If Seguin or Wheeler does move back to center, that would open up an opportunity for another youngster to claim a spot on the wing.

"If we put one guy there, that may mean we need another winger, so that may open up a spot for another winger," said Julien. "It really leaves the battle wide open because it's not just the center spot. It could be a winger going to center and if that's the case it opens up a spot for another winger. These next two games will be crucial for a lot of these players."

Colborne played wing at the University of Denver last year and Jamie Arniel and Brad Marchand remain in the mix as well, but 2008 first-round pick Jordan Caron appears to have the inside track on any opening on the wing with the strong camp he has put together so far.

With Savard out, Bergeron could be called upon to play a more offensive role this role after being more of a shutdown center in recent seasons. Having a potential finisher like Caron skating alongside him could help Bergeron return to the 70-point level he was at before a serious concussion of his own nearly derailed his career in 2007.

"Jordan Caron is a guy that is big and strong and certainly can be productive," said Julien. "We had Bergie with him earlier in camp, so there's another guy [in contention for a roster spot]. I think we need to find a fit, but definitely we want to make a good line, a line that will be able to produce more [offensively], and in order to do that we have to allow [Bergeron] a winger that will allow him to produce more."

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