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Door opens for Seguin, Babcock's cagey move, more camp notes

When rumors were swirling over the summer that Boston was shopping Marc Savard, I contacted an assistant GM for a team that could have used an offensively gifted pivot. "Would your club be interested?" I asked.

"In his talent, yes. In his head, no. Too big a risk for the price."

Prescient words, considering that just prior to camp, it was announced that Savard is sidelined indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome. Given that Paul Kariya is taking the entire season to recover from what was thought to be a minor concussion suffered last December, there's no way of knowing when, or if, Savard will make it back into the Bruins' lineup. In the meantime, a door of opportunity has opened wide for No. 2 pick Tyler Seguin, who has been skating with 42-year-old winger Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron in camp.

The B's could keep Seguin on the wing (probably the safer move considering the additional defensive responsibilities that come at center), or go with David Krejci, Bergeron and Seguin down the middle. The other complicating factor is the need for someone from that trio to develop some kind of chemistry with key offseason acquisition Nathan Horton. The big right winger was slated to skate with Savard ...

ELIOT:Bruins among contenders handing key roles to kids

No surprise that the Phoenix Coyotes cut goalie Mark Visentin on Monday, but it was thought that the 2010 first-rounder (27th overall) would get a taste of preseason action before being returned to Niagara of the OHL. Could be that early ticket home means the Coyotes are getting down to business quickly in advance of their trip to the Czech Republic, but with it's a tough break for a kid who battled hard enough in rookie camp to earn a longer look, especially with give games on the calendar this week ...

No one ever called Kyle Wellwood "a complete player" with a straight face, but the one element he brings -- offensive creativity -- is exactly what the Coyotes lack down the middle. The three centers thought to be locks to make the club -- Martin Hanzal, Vernon Fiddler and recent signee Eric Belanger -- will keep the opposition honest, but they scored 34 goals between them. Wellwood, who is in camp without a contract, might be the best option to spark a power play that finished a woeful 28th last season ...

There's bound to be a lot of skepticism in the wake of the two-year extension signed by Columbus goalie Steve Mason on Monday, but count me among those who think this was a solid move by Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson. Granted, Mason's 2009-10 season was ugly enough to make some people wonder if the NHL shouldn't Reggie Bush his Calder Trophy, but his final numbers (20-26-9, 3.06 GAA, .901 save pct., 5 shutouts) don't tell the whole story.

Mason was considerably more effective in the post-Ken Hitchcock period (.921 save pct to go along with three shutouts). It helped that he finally had a team working in concert in front of him, but he looked considerably more comfortable, especially in his reads. Even in light of that, Mason's $2.9 million cap hit (he'll earn $905,000 this season in the final year of his entry deal) might seem risky to some, but the two-year term mitigates it. Still, the Jackets are taking a chance. If Mason regains his rookie season form and develops as many expect he will, here's hoping he remembers that Howson believed in him when he was down ...

Mike Babcock's never given me a reason to question his coaching moves, so I wouldn't even think of second-guessing his decision to split up Nick Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski this year. Looks as though Niklas Kronwall will ride shotgun with Lidstrom, while Rafalski hitches up with Brad Stuart. The upshot? Spread the skill, and the menace, on the Wings' blueline. Might also extend the effectiveness of Lidstrom and Rafalski by pairing each with a physical deterrent ...

Remember the name Joakim Andersson. The Red Wings' second-round pick in 2007 is likely to start the season in Grand Rapids, but he's made an impression at camp. "A bigger, stronger P.J. Axelsson," one observer told me. Sounds like the sort of player Babcock would feel secure relying on...

Cody Hodgson has been cleared to join full-contact practice with the Canucks starting on Wednesday. With Brendan Morrison in camp on a pro tryout -- and seemingly a better fit for a lineup that looks to be leaning heavily towards veterans -- Hodgson will need an exceptional preseason performance to avoid starting the year in Manitoba. One player he won't have to worry about checking in his rearview mirror is 2009 first-rounder Jordan Schroeder. "You hear it all the time, but it's a big jump from [the NCAA] to the NHL," one observer told SI.com. "Things are happening a little fast for him right now." Look for Schroeder to be shipped out to Manitoba shortly ...

MUIR:Hodgson among camp hopefuls worth watching

It is looking less likely that Florida will start the season with Erik Gudbranson in the lineup. The third overall pick in the 2010 draft announced his physical readiness with several big hits, but was guilty of multiple bad reads in rookie camp game action. Be interesting to see how he plays it when the Panthers start their exhibition action: try to make an impression with the body or simplify his game to increase his reliability? ...

Good news in Dallas, where it was learned that Tom Wandell won't be sidelined long by a shoulder injury suffered over the weekend. Hopes are he'll be back in time for one, maybe two, exhibition games. The 23-year-old center isn't a big name, but he's one of those players you really appreciate if you watch him closely. Good wheels, smart with the puck, responsible defensively. The team is counting on him to fill the Mike Modano role on the third line ...

The next time we're talking minor rule changes, how about addressing the minimum number of legitimate NHLers that dress for a preseason game? Sure, they're playing on the road, and yes, the preseason is a time for evaluation, but the lineup the Blue Jackets are dressing tonight (Sept. 21) won't exactly generate much walk-up traffic in Atlanta. Just four of the players could be considered as good bets to make the squad and one of those is backup goaltender Mathieu Garon. The others: Mike Commodore, Derek Dorsett and Marc Methot. Bleah. Exhibition or not, it's still supposed to be entertaining, guys ...especially when teams are charging regular season prices for the privilege of attending ...

Not to sound like a total shill, but if you're not getting the NHL Network through your TV provider, it's time to start exploring your options. NHLN will air 35 preseason games in the U.S., either live or on tape-delay, starting tonight with a tripleheader of Philadelphia/New Jersey, Ottawa/Toronto and Vancouver/Calgary. They follow that up with live action every night this week. Great chance to check out the top prospects and camp surprises for yourself.


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