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Clark breaks his nose fighting for spot on Bruins

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / October 2, 2011

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BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Last night could have marked Chris Clark’s final game in an NHL sweater, much less the Black and Gold.

But part of being a professional and a former NHL captain is not to consider such grim realities.

“Haven’t thought of that, and hopefully I won’t have to,’’ said Clark. “Even if I do have to [think about it], something else will pop up, hopefully.’’

Clark’s night ended early. In the second period of the Bruins’ 3-2 victory over the Islanders, he suffered a broken nose during a fight with Micheal Haley. Clark, who started the game alongside Lane MacDermid and Gregory Campbell, was not available for comment after the game.

Tim Thomas played the entire game and made 25 saves.

The Bruins have 26 players remaining in camp, not including Steven Kampfer. The defenseman will miss 2-4 weeks because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. The Bruins are allowed to carry 23 players when they open the regular season Thursday against Philadelphia.

Matt Bartkowski, by way of Kampfer’s injury, has locked up the seventh spot on defense. Anton Khudobin, Max Sauve, and MacDermid are likely headed to Providence. That leaves Clark and second-year pro Jordan Caron in the mix for the 13th forward spot. It’s possible the Bruins break camp with both Clark and Caron on the roster because they have enough cap space.

Although Caron has showed more offensive touch, Clark has become more comfortable in coach Claude Julien’s system. Perhaps the biggest adjustment for Clark was how Julien wants his forwards to skate on the backcheck.

“Here, we really pressure the puck and really go after the puck carrier,’’ Clark said. “That’s good. It’s something I’d rather do anyway than trying to find and pick up the open guy coming back. So that’s something that fits.’’

Clark has some of the intangibles in his favor. Although Clark is not under contract, he would cost around the league minimum ($525,000). Caron carries a $1.1 million annual salary cap hit.

Clark would be free to sign with any team if he doesn’t make the final roster. He said he has not considered whether he would accept an AHL assignment. Caron can be assigned to Providence without clearing waivers.

Clark has 607 NHL games on his résumé. Caron has just 23. The right-shot veteran has proven to be a savvy penalty killer and bottom-six glue guy. Caron is still developing his NHL identity.

Caron, however, has proven in camp that he deserves to make the big roster. Caron has played both wings. He has kept up with David Krejci and Nathan Horton on the No. 1 line. He has also played a grinding role on the third line with Clark and Chris Kelly.

Caron would not be hindered by additional development time in Providence, but it would be difficult for general manager Peter Chiarelli to send Caron to the AHL. One of Chiarelli’s regular themes, a line he has told his players repeatedly, is that if they deserve to make the team, he will make room for them.

Caron was a healthy scratch last night. Although that’s usually not a good thing for a young player, Caron earned the night off because of all the good he’s done this preseason (1-1-2 in four games).

“He’s had a great camp,’’ Julien said. “We had seen enough to evaluate him and compare him to the other guys here. His game here tonight would not have made a big difference in our evaluation. He’s had a good camp. A really good camp. For us, it was about evaluating the other players right now.’’

The Bruins will leave Boston today for an undisclosed location for team-building activities. Last year, they traveled to Brattleboro, Vt., and participated in a ropes course. Three years ago, they went to Stowe, Vt., where orienteering was on the schedule. Prior to today, the players had not been informed of the destination.

“To us, it’s worked well. That’s why we’ve done it every year,’’ said Julien. “We just feel that getting the guys together and doing certain things is going to help them bond. We’re going to have some new faces in our lineup this year no matter how we look at it. Those new faces have to be able to bond with the rest of the team and get comfortable.’’

The Bruins will have a team dinner at a downtown location Tuesday. There, they will be presented with their championship rings. The players do not know what the rings look like . . . Clark, Horton, and Johnny Boychuk served as alternate captains last night . . . Tyler Seguin centered the second line between Benoit Pouliot and Brad Marchand. Seguin has looked more comfortable at center than wing during camp . . . Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Shawn Thornton, and Daniel Paille were healthy scratches.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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