Bruins Practice Notes: Craig Cunningham’s Versatility Helping Pursuit of Roster Spot

by abournenesn

Oct 2, 2014

Craig CunninghamBOSTON — Craig Cunningham has a lot of different skills that have helped him survive the first three rounds of roster cuts made by the Bruins in training camp, but his best strength is his versatility.

Cunningham’s ability to play multiple positions could make him a valuable asset for B’s head coach Claude Julien as he configures his bottom-two lines for the start of the regular season.

“Versatility really helps him out, and it helps the team out. He’s a winger, and he’s also a centerman,” Julien said after Thursday’s practice. “He’s one of those guys who’s a smart player, and his work ethic is second to none. Right now, at this point, we’re really looking at him, we talked about Gregory Campbell maybe not being ready. We’ve got some guys right now battling for spots, and also we’ve got some holes to fill right now as we speak.”

Campbell is “doubtful” for the season opener on Oct. 8 against the Philadelphia Flyers. If he doesn’t play, Cunningham is a great option to fill the fourth-line center role. If Chris Kelly slots into that spot, Cunningham could play Shawn Thornton’s old spot at right wing on that line. Cunningham plays a heavy game, battles for pucks in the corners and along the boards and also can provide offense — he’s posted three straight 20-plus goal seasons for the Providence Bruins (AHL).

“Obviously, there’s always pressure (to make the team),” Cunningham said. “I think every guy in this room will tell you that the most pressure there is, is the pressure you put on yourself. We’re all accountable, and we all are competitive guys and want that last job.

“(It’s) right down to the wire here, and everyone’s putting pressure on themselves. We’re all fighting against each other and fighting with each other, so it’s kind of a unique situation. But there’s only two games left, and hopefully you got to make them count.”

— Forward lines during drills at Thursday’s practice.

Milan Lucic–David Krejci–Loui Eriksson
Brad Marchand–David Pastrnak–Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly–Carl Soderberg–Matt Fraser
Daniel Paille, Jordan Caron, Craig Cunningham, Simon Gagne and Bobby Robins skated on the “Merlot line.”

— Julien hopes 2014 first-round pick David Pastrnak will play in at least one of the final two preseason games. The right winger hasn’t been medically cleared to play yet after suffering a shoulder injury on the third day of camp.

“I think right now, he’s feeling good,” Julien said. “He looks like he’s ready, and the only thing that’s stopping us from saying yes right now is that we just need the doctors to clear him. “I’m feeling confident that he will be (cleared), from what David’s telling me himself, he feels good. So we’ll wait and see, and probably be able to confirm that for you (Friday) morning.”

— David Warsofsky is one of the defensemen battling for a third-pairing spot on the roster. He would have to clear waivers to re-join the Providence Bruins.

“So David is a guy that I thought had a slower start to the camp, but has gotten better every day,” Julien said. “His first week, I thought maybe he looked a little nervous. But he’s come around now, and he’s been better lately.

— Simon Gagne, who’s in camp on a tryout basis, knows that time is running out to make a strong case for a roster spot.

“I’ve got two more games left, and it’s not done — I have to show them what I can do in the back-to-back games,” Gagne said. “Lineups are getting close to the real lineup, not only here, but for the other teams, too, so games will be at the same level as the regular season. This is where I think (the front office is) going to try to look not only at myself, but the other guys here. We got two more days to show what we can do.”

— Defenseman prospect Linus Arnesson is no longer in camp, per Julien.

— Julien also said Patrice Bergeron’s absence from Thursday’s practice was just a day off.

Have a Bruins/NHL question for Nick Goss? Send it to him via Twitter at @NickGossNESN
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