By MARK DIVVER
Assistant Sports Editor
PROVIDENCE -- Of course Vladimir Sobotka would rather be in the NHL. What 22-year-old hockey player wouldn't?
Sobotka was the best player on the ice at Friday morning's practice, according to coach Rob Murray, despite his disappointment over being demoted to the Providence Bruins. Afterward, Sobotka said all the right things about the front office's unexpected decision to send him down to save some salary cap dollars.
"We are over the cap and that's why they send me down,'' Sobotka said. "They said I'll be back soon.''
Sobotka got the bad news from general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien on Tuesday.
"I have to start here, and we'll see,'' said Sobotka, a native of the Czech Republic. "It's just business, not hockey. They tell me I play good. When I started (the exhibition games), it wasn't that good, but I finished really well. That's what they said. It's not about hockey, it's about business.''
Sobotka said the temporary setback won't deter him from someday being an NHL regular. "I always want to play in NHL, you know, so I'm not gonna stop now. I'm always going to play 100 percent.''
The Bruins are close to agreement on contracts with draft picks Lane MacDermid and Alain Goulet.
"We're working on getting those two players signed. I would anticipate, hopefully, working something out with them" by Sunday's opener, said Boston assistant GM Don Sweeney, who was on the ice with the P-Bruins at Friday's practice.
MacDermid, 20, was a fourth-round draft pick in June. A physical 6'3'' 200-pound left wing, MacDermid had a couple of fights in the exhibition season. He'll probably play a fourth-line role in Providence.
Goulet, 21, was a sixth-round pick in 2007. He's a 6'3'' 195-pound right-shooting offensive defenseman. Goulet projects to be a number six or seven defenseman in Providence until he gains more experience.
No decisions have been made on who will be the captain and assistant captains this season, Murray said.
Some players might be chosen to wear the letters for Sunday's game, but a final decision probably won't be made until next weekend, Murray said.
Trent Whitfield, signed as a free agent by Boston over the summer, was captain last season in Peoria.
Murray has said that Adam McQuaid, who turns 23 next week, is possible captain material.
Providence released free-agent defenseman Mike Stuart and center Jimmy Fraser.
Murray said he didn't know what plans Stuart and Fraser have, but that if they end up in the East Coast Hockey League, they could get another chance in Providence.
"We liked Fraser. He's a guy we'll keep in mind for future,'' Murray said. "We'll keep tabs on (Stuart), if we ever had to get a veteran guy who's been around and can step right back in your lineup.''
Brett Clouthier, who had four fights in the exhibition season, has agreed to a 25-game tryout, Murray said.
"He's a good soldier. He wants to do whatever it takes to be here. He understands right now he might not be in the lineup right off the hop. He wants to work hard and this is where he wants to be. He was willing to sign a PTO and we'll go from there," Murray said.
The lines in Friday's practice:
White -- Sobotka, Hamill, Marchand
Blue -- Whitfield, LoVecchio, Lehtonen
Red -- Larman, Lefebvre, MacDonald
Yellow -- Arniel, Knackstedt, Marquardt
Extras -- Clouthier, MacDermid
The Sobotka-Hamill-Marchand line is the first power-play unit, followed by Whitfield-LoVecchio-Lehtonen.