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Rask looking forward to next year. Will it be in Boston?

PROVIDENCE, RI — The Bruins organization’s 2008-09 season full of promise and wonder came to an official close yesterday afternoon when the Providence Bruins dropped a 5-2 decision in Game 5 to Chris Bourque and the Hershey Bears at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.

The P-Bruins seemed to have some of the same defenseman problems that plagued Boston in the playoffs beyond steady blueliners Johnny Boychuk [1] and Jeff Penner, and it was a pretty one-sided affair despite Providence still hanging around in the third period thanks to some superior goaltending from Tuukka Rask [2] (33 saves).

One other observation about the P-Bruins: 22-year-old Mikko Lehtonen is going to be a pretty good player in the NHL [3] someday soon. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward was a big nuisance in front of the net during the game, squeezed off four shots and scored a goal on an NHL-level top shelf wrister from the left faceoff circle when the game was still in question in the third period. Lehtonen was part of a group of promising young Providence players that will be heard from when Boston Bruins [4] training camp rolls around next fall.

In the meantime, Lehtonen — and perhaps Rask if he can be pried out of Finland — will be a part of Boston’s annual rookie development camp this July at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.

“You’ve got to look at it starting with Tuukka. He’s come a long way in a year. He was very good last year and I think he’s only gotten better and he’s matured a lot this year. I think Brad Marchand [5] got better,” said P-Bruins coach Bryan Murray. “I think Mikko Lehtonen probably was under the radar, but had a fantastic season. Jeff Penner, you almost forget he’s a first-year player because of the way he played as a rookie. I could go on and on.

“That says a lot for our future development here in Providence and with the Boston Bruins,” added Murray.

The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder was pretty peeved after the game — a great sign for a Finnish goaltending product, as sometimes it’s difficult to find a pulse on many of the European netminders — and didn’t seem to want to elaborate much on his plans for the offseason.

The hockey season started on a sour note when Rask didn’t make the big club out of training camp — a virtual certainty given Rask’s cap hit north of $3 million for this season — and the ending wasn’t much better when he allowed a pair of third period goals en route to a 5-2 defeat.

Rask finished 33-20-4 in 57 games for Providence this season with four shutouts and a .915 save percentage and a 2.50 goals against average, and the 22-year-old bumped that up to a .930 save percentage and a 2.21 GAA during the Calder Cup playoffs. The young goalie was pleased with his final year of minor league hockey seasoning, and will be readying himself for a Spoked B Boston sweater next season.

“I think I really stepped up enough from last year; I’m better and more consistent,” said Rask. “Overall I’m happy with what I did this year and I want to keep growing next year. Obviously when you feel like you’ve had a great camp and expect to stay there — and then you get sent down (to Providence) — it’s frustrating. But you need to keep battling and bounce back.

“You can’t just stay in and be sad every day. It’s your job and you’ve got to work hard. It took a few weeks to get over it, but after all of that it was a great season.”

Does he feel like he’s ready to take on the role as backup to Tim Thomas [6] next season in the NHL [7]?

“Why not?” said Rask, who said he’s still focused on gaining size and muscle headed into next season. “I played in a couple of games there and I don’t feel like I sucked. So why not? I’m going to take a couple of weeks off (in Finland) and let my body recover from all of the games that I played. I’m really looking forward to next year.”