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Shawn Thornton on D&C: Penguins front lines ‘a force to be reckoned with’

Bruins forward Shawn Thornton [1] joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning and previewed the B’s Eastern Conference finals series against the Penguins [2], talked up “underhyped” goalie Tuukka Rask [3] and revealed that he received a congratulatory text message from former teammate Tim Thomas [4] after Game 3 vs. the Rangers.

The Bruins return to practice Tuesday following two days off since dispatching the Rangers in Game 5 on Saturday night, preparing for what is expected to be a much tougher test from the top-seeded Penguins [2].

“They’re a pretty deep group up front, that’s for sure,” Thornton said. “They’ve got guys like Brenden Morrow [5] on their fourth line. That’s some pretty good players back there. So, yeah, they’re a force to be reckoned with up front.”

Added Thornton: “I know there’s a lot of hype with the guys we’re playing against, and rightfully so, they’re great players. It’s always kind of the Sidney Crosby [6] show wherever he goes. He’s the face of the league and he’s probably the best player in the game. You can’t get caught looking at that. We have to worry about what’s going on in our locker room, like we did last series with the Rangers and the series before with Toronto. You can’t really worry about what’s going on outside. We’ve got to play our game if we want to be successful. ‘€¦ You get caught just trying to react to what they’re doing, you’ll get caught with your pants down. They’re a dangerous team.”

Asked if Crosby is the best player he’s played against, Thornton said: “Yeah, I’d say, all-around. There’s not much he doesn’t do well. He competes hard. Not only how skilled he is, his compete level is right up there. He never seems to take a night off. I think that’s part of the reason why he’s so good. ”

Thornton said there are no hard feelings toward Jarome Iginla after the veteran forward chose Pittsburgh over Boston at the trade deadline.

“No, I don’t care,” Thornton said. “He made a decision based on his personal opinion. He has a no-trade, he’s entitled to that. He earned it. He played a lot of great years in Calgary for that right. As a player, you can’t really fault him for it.”

In the Bruins-Rangers series, Rask made his case as one of the league’s top goalies (despite one notable mistake in Game 4). Thornton said Rask deserves more credit than what he’s been getting.

“[The Rangers are] a good team, but I think the difference is we’re a little bit underhyped, which we’re OK with. Not so much the team, but especially the goaltending. Tuukka, I don’t know if he’ll ever get his due. We won that series, Tuukka stood on his head, and they still just talked about [Henrik] Lundqvist afterward,” Thornton said.

“It’s kind of mind-blowing to me how much Tuuka flies under the radar. But it’s just personality, too. He doesn’t like being out there that much, he wants to fly under the radar. Probably one of the reasons he’s not up for the Vezina this year is because of his personality and how he plays it off as if it doesn’t matter what they say about him. He’s all about the team first, anyways.”

Asked if he knows if Thomas, the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup [7] hero who took a sabbatical this season, has been following the games, Thornton said: “I know he watched one, because he texted me. He texted me after I think it was Game 3 in New York. I didn’t know he had my number still. I hadn’t heard from him in a while. I’ve got to get back to him. I forgot to get back to him.”

Added Thornton: “I think Tuukka might still talk to him, but that’s probably I’d say it in the dressing room.”

Thornton said he didn’t know if Thomas would return to the NHL [8]. The Islanders own Thomas’ rights after the Bruins unloaded his contract.

“You never know with Timmy,” Thornton said. “The day you count him out, that’s the day he wants, that’s the day he’ll try and come back. You never know with him. His personality is different than a lot. He likes to be the guy that people count down and out and then he comes back. He likes being the underdog.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page [9]. For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins [10].

On if Tyler Seguin [11] played better against the Rangers than in the first-round series win over the Maple Leafs [12]: “I thought he was better. His compete level continued to go up. He’s judged fairly or unfairly on point production. Because he’s that skilled, a lot of people judge his play on whether the puck’s going in the net. But I know that he really helped out on our power play, and his compete level is a lot better than it was earlier in the playoffs. He needs to compete and battle to get those chances, especially this time of year. It’s not as freewheeling of a game as maybe Game 13 of the season.”

On Claude Julien’s decision regarding which defensemen to play: “It’s a tough decision for Claude, I’m sure. But it’s a good decision to have. It’s better than the opposite, when he’s thinking, ‘Oh, God, we’ve got to put this guy in?’ It’s a good decision to have. Those kids came in and made a very good push for themselves, and you’ve got some veteran guys coming back, too. It won’t be an easy decision on who he’s going to go with. At the end of the day it’s what’s best for the team, what’s going to help us win. That’s all that matters this time of year. Whoever’s in there is going to do a great job.”

On the B’s fourth line: “I hope we can continue to contribute. ‘€¦ I’m hoping we can continue to be used effectively and get our minutes and create some pressure in the other end, a little bit of energy, some forechecking. We’re going to work hard, I know that.”

On the long layoff between games and which team is affected more: “Both teams are going to have to deal with it in their own way. I’ve gone through it before. I’m not going to lie, it kind of sucks. We’d like to get playing, but we have to wait until the West is done to get the schedule going. But it’s the same on both sides. It’s just like people complain about crappy ice; it’s crappy for both teams, so just deal with it. Just deal with it to the best of your ability and move on.”