- Associated Press - Friday, September 9, 2011

WILMINGTON, MASS. (AP) - A granite replica of the Stanley Cup weighing a reported 7,000 pounds greeted Boston Bruins prospects as they reported for rookie camp at the team’s practice arena.

That should be their first clue that making the team could be harder this year.

“I think everybody’s excited to come to camp, to start up this year,” assistant general manager Jim Benning said on Friday after the first skate of the team’s rookie camp.

The NHL champions will spend the weekend at their practice arena north of Boston, which was festooned with a new marker denoting the team’s path to its first Cup since 1972. Then they’ll head to New York for two exhibition games against the Islanders.

“It’s pretty special,” said Dougie Hamilton, a first-round draft pick. “You feel like asking them, ‘Let’s see your ring’ or ‘How was it winning the Cup?’ (But) they can be your teammates, so it’s kind of weird like that. It’s been special with this whole organization and what they’ve done.”

Among the players on the ice were Hamilton, a defenseman who was the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft, and last year’s second-round picks Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight. They’re hoping to impress the coaches and make the team, like rookies Tyler Seguin and Steve Kampfer did last year.

But it won’t be easier to crack a roster that returns most of a defending champion.

“I would tend to agree since the team won the Stanley Cup, but we don’t know for sure,” Benning said. “We’re just going to have to go through the process of this camp and then main camp. The one thing about Peter and Claude: if a player deserves to be on the team, then they find a way to get the player on the team.”

Before the rookies skated, some of the veterans hit the ice for a captain’s practice. Among them was Nathan Horton, who sustained a concussion in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals and missed the rest of the series. He was not available for comment after the practice.

Also Friday, the Bruins signed defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk to a one-year extension. Bodnarchuk spent the last three seasons with Providence of the AHL, earning honors as the team’s best defenseman in 2010-11.

The fifth-round pick in the 2006 draft has played in five NHL games.

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AP freelancer Matt Kalman contributed to this story.

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