A defensive battle

BOSTON -- A week ago, Bruins coach Claude Julien said he wasn’t about to make any changes to his top six defensemen. Now he’s calling it a competition.

Julien inserted Mark Stuart back into the lineup Sunday at Detroit and decided to sit rookie blueliner Steven Kampfer.

“Right now it’s turned into a bit of a competition,” the coach said. “Lately our back end hasn’t been as consistent as it had been in the past.”

Stuart, who had been a healthy scratch for eight consecutive games, said he hoped he played well enough against the Red Wings to warrant another game and a chance to win back his spot on Boston’s blue line.

"Hopefully I did it well enough to keep a spot. We’ll see,” Stuart said.

Following Tuesday’s morning skate, it appeared Stuart could be another healthy scratch because Kampfer said Julien told him that he’s back in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs. But Julien could put both Stuart and Kampfer in the lineup and sit someone else.

It can’t be easy for Stuart to be the odd-man out. He said he’s not focusing on the fact that he was a healthy scratch for eight games; he said he considers it as being out for more than two months. After missing 18 games due to a broken finger, Stuart returned to the lineup on Jan. 17 and played a total of three games before he was relegated to the press box.

He played well in his return on Sunday.

“I was just trying to play hard,” Stuart said. “It was my first game back and I was trying to control what I can control. I wanted to make sure I was playing physical.”

Julien agreed.

“He played well,” said the coach. “I thought he handled himself well. Obviously he was being a physical player and kept things simple. I like his game for someone who hadn’t played in a long time. I thought he handled himself very well.”

Kampfer, a native of Michigan and a product of the University of Michigan, was looking forward to playing in front of the hometown crowd in Detroit, but Julien felt it was best to make him a healthy scratch.

The coach told the rookie while Kampfer was out to dinner with his parents Saturday night, and the two spoke Sunday morning in the coach’s office at Joe Louis Arena.

“It was for a good reason,” Kampfer said. “I wasn’t happy with my game as well. It’ll help me out in the long run. Sitting out one game is not going to hurt. I got a good perspective watching the game.

“I don’t think [my game] was slipping. I don’t think I was doing things with a sense of urgency as much as I was in the beginning stages.”

Kampfer said he believes he was trying to force the big plays instead of keeping his game simple.

“I wouldn’t say I was getting comfortable,” he said. “I wasn’t helping this team as much, so to sit back and take a game and realize what I can do better for the long run will be very helpful for this team and for myself. More importantly, you want to learn because you want to help this team win.”

Julien and Kampfer spoke again prior to Tuesday’s morning skate.

“He really felt he got a lot from sitting and watching the game,” explained Julien. “It never hurts every once in a while for a young player to sit up there and see what’s going on.”