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Sauve doing his max

Rookie's goal is to show he belongs with big club

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / September 29, 2011

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It’s a numbers game, especially this close to the start of the season, with the Bruins’ final few roster spots nearly decided, if not already.

Whether Max Sauve stays with Boston or gets assigned to Providence hasn’t been announced yet. Until then, the 21-year-old center from France is doing all he can to show coaches and management that he’s NHL-ready.

“It’s close, but I’ve got to keep working hard,’’ Sauve said following practice at TD Garden yesterday.

The team’s second-round pick in the 2008 draft, Sauve has lingered at Bruins camp while others have already been assigned to Providence and elsewhere. Playing on second and third lines, he has recorded two assists in three preseason games, still waiting for his first goal. In 61 games at Providence last season, he scored 21 goals and added 17 assists.

It’s hard to imagine Sauve making the club out of camp - barring an injury to a veteran - but he’s making an impression on coach Claude Julien, who noted that there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“We all know he’s got skill, we all know he’s got speed, and you know, he’s pretty dangerous around the net and he showed that at Providence last year,’’ Julien said. “I think he has a lot of attributes that will allow him to play in the NHL.

“But in order to be an NHL regular, you have to do a little bit more than just skate and shoot. Competing for that loose puck . . . I’m not a big fan of players who go in the corner and come out with the puck once out of every 10 tries. A skilled guy can go in there and be smart enough to come out with the puck if he really wants to.

“That’s the part that I keep putting a lot of importance to when I talk to the players, whether it was Tyler Seguin last year, we saw the same thing. Tyler’s a much better player this year when it comes to competing for those loose pucks, and we need to see that from Max as well.’’

An even battle Another player trying to nail down a roster spot is Matt Bartkowski, who seems locked in a battle with Steven Kampfer for the final defenseman spot. Kampfer got the nod last year (Bartkowski was the final cut out of camp, went to Providence, and played in just six games with the Bruins; Kampfer appeared in 38).

“It’s tough,’’ said Julien. “Right now there’s a couple of guys there that are pretty even and each bring a certain element that we like, so now it’s a matter of them battling for that spot. Same battle that happened last year.’’

Bartkowski is hoping he can use what happened at camp last year as a learning experience.

“Very valuable,’’ he said. “I get to make a lot of good relationships with players and staff and stuff like that, they get to know me a little bit better, I get to know them, and then you get to learn the ins and outs of the organization.’’

Zoning in Defenseman Joe Corvo, who came over from Carolina in an offseason trade, has spent time with four NHL clubs since making his debut in 2002 with the Kings. He’s never played in a zone system like the one preferred by the Bruins.

“Yeah, it’s pretty different,’’ he said. “I’ve really never played on a team with such back pressure, and there’s accountability on the forwards to get back and put back pressure on their charging forwards.

“That and the end zone play is a little different than anything else I’ve played. I’ve always played man-on-man, and it’s not that way here.

“I’m just trying to keep it out of my head in terms of trying to think it out, just play out there and see what happens. You’re dead in the water if you’re out there trying to think your way through it. All of a sudden everything feels like it’s going a million miles per hour. I’ve just got to get reps in at practice, and it’ll become habit.’’

Spot check Julien, asked if any of the veteran players need to play better in the final two preseason games or risk losing a roster spot: “Every year we’ve had guys step in and we’ve had guys that were released or sent down, and that’s not going to change. All I’m saying right now is that the guys that deserve to be here will be here. The spots are open for the guys that deserve to be here.’’ . . . The team’s final home preseason game is tonight against Ottawa at TD Garden. NESN and 98.5 FM have the coverage . . . With tickets for next Thursday’s banner-unveiling season opener commanding top dollar, four seats in Ray Bourque’s private suite can be had for as little as $10. That’s the price to enter a raffle that benefits the newly formed Tim Thomas Foundation, which is committed to supporting food banks, education, and disaster relief, among other causes. “Basically the mission of the foundation is to support the underdog,’’ said Thomas. “At times, people face adversity, whether it’s a natural disaster or something else that crops up in life, and I’d like to help people overcome this adversity, just as others have helped me along the way.’’ The deadline to enter the drawing is 11 a.m. Oct. 5. The winner will also meet Thomas after the game, have an opportunity to try on his Stanley Cup ring, and pose with him for photos. To enter, visit www.netraffle.org.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com.

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