BOSTON — The most highly contested job in camp may have been settled in the one way no one involved in the competition wanted.
Young Bruins blueliners Steven Kampfer and Matt Bartkowski are the last two players remaining in camp vying for the seventh and final spot on Boston's defense. That battle may have been decided in the third period of Thursday's 2-1 exhibition loss to Ottawa at the Garden when Kampfer went down awkwardly on a hit from Senators defenseman Jared Cowen.
"He suffered a knee injury, left knee," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "That's basically all we have right now for specific details. He's going to have an MRI [Friday], so we'll find out a little bit more on his condition."
Kampfer, who had a pair of shots in 14:52 of ice time, was hurt with 12:08 to play in the game and did not return. If there is any good news before the results of Friday's testing, it's the fact that the injury is not to the same knee that Kampfer hurt in Providence at the end of last season. That injury kept him sidelined for the first two rounds of the playoffs, and he did not end up playing in Boston's run to the Cup despite returning to practice during the Eastern Conference final.
While it appears that Kampfer is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season next Tuesday, Julien isn't quite ready to declare the job Bartkowski's.
"I don't know if it settles it," Julien said. "We'll find out [Friday] how severe it is. Is he going to be [out] two months or is he only going to be a few weeks? If it is, then there can still be a battle going on there."
That would be fine with Bartkowski, who would rather not win the job because of an injury to Kampfer, who was his roommate last year in Providence.
"He's a friend of mine, I don't want to see him get hurt," Bartkowski said. "I want to earn the spot. I don't want it to be on account of someone getting hurt."
Bartkowski outlasted Kampfer in camp last year, making the trip to Europe with the club before being assigned to Providence with the final cuts. Kampfer saw more action in Boston during the course of the season, but that camp experience and being with the club during the postseason as a Black Ace has helped Bartkowski be better prepared to take a run at a job in Boston this season.
"There's been a few ups and downs, some little inconsistencies here and there, but all-around not bad," Bartkowski said of his camp so far.
"Every second you get more comfortable at this level," added Bartkowski, who was a minus-1 with two shots and a hit in 17:45 on Thursday. "Going through this camp it definitely helps a lot. It's ahead of where it was, but it's not where it needs to be yet. It's getting there."
Julien offered a similar assessment, praising both defenders while noting that there was still plenty of work to be done.
"They both were pretty good," Julien said. "I thought Kampf was having a real good night, skating and moving the puck. Bart is still right there. There are some things I think he has to continue to work on. He has good size and he's a solid skater, but every once in a while he gets caught not moving the puck quick enough. Those are just little things he has to continue working on. Having said that, I like both of their games."
He'd like them even more if Friday's MRI brings good news and he'll have both young defenders as options on the blue line in the near future.