It’s been Tuukka Time all season for the Bruins, but Anton Khudobin‘s turn to man the pipes appears to be right around the corner.
Tuukka Rask has done an admirable job in starting the Bruins’ first four games to the tune of a 3-0-1 record with a 1.96 goals-against average and .925 save percentage, but with the B’s heading into a stretch of four games in six days (including back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday against the Hurricanes and Devils, respectively), the Bruins will call on Khudobin to provide Rask with a breather.
“I’m sure he’ll see some action at some point,” Claude Julien said Sunday, not specifying when the B’s plan to first use Khudobin. “With this amount of games, you’re going to have to utilize both goaltenders. We want him to get some action at some point as well, so it’s important for Tuukka to get some rest, but also to keep Anton sharp as well.”
Khudobin’s next start will be just his second with the Bruins, as he made 44 saves and allowed one goal last April 5 against the Senators in his Bruins debut. Since then, the 26-year-old has played in the KHL during the lockout, putting up subpar numbers (6-14-4 record, 2.96 GAA, .912 save percentage) on a subpar Moscow Oblast Atlant team.
Though he got plenty of work in the KHL, Khudobin’s had to make the most of his time during practice since the NHL season started. He knows that he figures to get into a good number of games for the Bruins this season given the compressed schedule, so he said he has no choice but to buckle down between games.
“Just go there and stop some shots,” Khudobin said of utilizing practice time. “Work on my weaknesses and try to get myself ready for the game.”
Said Julien: “He’s been no different than anybody else. He’s gone in there and worked hard. There’s no difference in my mind as far as his practice compared to anybody else. He’s been working hard and we’ve been pleased with that.”
Unlike the last few years of the Tim Thomas/Rask tandem, this season presents a campaign of having a clearly defined No. 1 goalie with a more traditional backup. The former Wild seventh-round pick has played in seven career NHL games between the Wild and the Bruins, making five starts and going 5-1-0 with a 1.32 GAA and .961 save percentage. He is in the final year of his deal with the Bruins and will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, at which point he may consider a return to the KHL.
Khudobin has insisted that despite expressing an interest in potentially changing leagues at the end of the season, his focus is solely on the Bruins. He feels that rust won’t be a problem when he makes his season debut, and his teammates are confident in what he brings.
“He’s a good goalie,” David Krejci said, adding, “He played well in the KHL this year, so he’s got some games. I don’t know when he’s going to be playing, but it’s not like he’s going to go in for the first in a long time. He’s been playing some games. He’s played well. So far what I’ve seen in practice is he competes hard. Hopefully when he gets the chance he’s going to take it.”