BOSTON — It took just one day of on-ice practice at TD Garden for Bruins head coach Claude Julien to make it clear that he’s not going to ride Tim Thomas into the ground from the start of this season.
Just as in year’s past, Julien plans to give both his NHL goaltenders a chance to compete for playing time, and going forward, he’ll make sure to keep both fresh and sharp. That could mean an expanded role for Tuukka Rask, who led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage in 2009-10 before Thomas took over both those departments on his way to the Vezina Trophy last season.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that Tuukka has to take a bit of a bigger bite this year for that reason and that’s not a secret and don’t plan on making that a secret,” said Julien. “Tim is a great goaltender, but Tim is a goaltender that understands too, that he can’t play 70-plus games in the season, the regular season. He’s had a long playoffs and I think Tim is going to be just as happy as we are to have Tuukka here and paying some of his best hockey. I liked his practice today, I thought Tuukka looked sharp and he came in great shape so hopefully he’s ready to take on that load an we’ll certainly make sure that we share it. And in sharing that load you just want to make sure you keep you’re goaltenders as sharp as you can and Tim had such an outstanding year last year. We’d love to see him duplicate it, but he might be able to duplicate with some help from Tuukka by keeping him as fresh as we can.”
Through two days of practice, Rask says he feels fine after offseason knee surgery. He’s not anticipating any limitations, especially when the exhibition season starts.
“Obviously, you want to have a good feeling of yourself going into the season,” he said today after his group went through its practice. “But I mean in past years I’ve played a few games. I’ll play one, I’ll play two, I’ll play six, it doesn’t matter.”
Goaltending, regardless of who plays, should continue to be a major strength for the Bruins. And Rask won’t be buried by the organization despite playing behind a guy coming off a historic season.
“Every year is a new opportunity, right? And having me and Timmy here, we both know that we can play,” said Rask. “And I think it helps our team to achieve our goals. We try to give a chance to win every night and that’s what we want to do. Game-wise, I don’t set any goals. Hopefully we can both play at a good level and a lot of games.”