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Slideshow: Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s 08.09.10 at 10:51 pm ET
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WEEI.com was on hand for Shawn Thornton’s first annual Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament, which means photographer John Vu was snapping plenty of pictures at Ferncroft Country Club in Middleton. Here is the slideshow of the event, which also featured Bruins forward Milan Lucic and goaltender Tuukka Rask (click the picture to begin). For the full low-down on the event and what it meant to Thornton, whose grandmother passed away from Parkinson’s, click here.

Photographer

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Rask unshaken by competition, sophomore slump at 5:04 pm ET
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Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask won't be fazed by any subplots to the 2010-11 season. (John Vu photo/WEEI.com)

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask won't be fazed by any subplots to the 2010-11 season. (John Vu photo/WEEI.com)

MIDDLETON — A refreshed and eager Tuukka Rask made his first appearance around these parts in quite some time as he prepared to tee off with teammates and fans for Shawn Thornton‘s Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s golf tournament. With last season’s borderline traumatic Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Flyers in the rear view mirror and a new season just around the corner, Rask is ready to build on a 2009-10 performance that saw him become the No. 1 goaltender down the stretch.

“Things are going great. I had an awesome summer in Finland, spent a couple times there, seeing my friends and family and working out,” said Rask. “Now I’m back here so it’s time to get your thoughts back on the hockey season.”

After playing five games in the previous two years, Rask, a former first-round pick acquired from the Maple Leafs in exchange for Andrew Raycroft, made his first real impression in the NHL last season. In splitting time with then-reigning Vezina winner Tim Thomas, Rask started 39 regular- season games and posted a 1.97 goals against average, which, like his .931 save percentage, led the NHL.

Yet as Rask, who started all 13 playoff games for the Bruins, looks to improve and further his accomplishments, he must do so knowing of the sophomore slump that has plagued Raycroft and so many goaltenders before him.

“I’ve heard about people talking about it,” Rask said of the struggles that face second-year goalies, “but not yet in my part, but we’ll see what happens. You just try to be yourself and do your best every day and when you know that you have worked hard and you’ve done everything you can to be at your best, there’s nothing you can change and thats something I’m going to try to do. If it goes not so well, then it goes, but we’ll see.”

Any feared decline in Rask’s performance has hardly been the only discussion that has involved the Bruins goaltending this offseason. Given Rask’s emergence and Thomas’ $5 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons, there has been significant chatter among the fanbase that Thomas should be considered expendable for a team that is struggling against the salary cap.

That’s not how Rask sees it, however. He thrived on the competition with Thomas and maintained that having to challenge an established veteran made him better, which in turn made Thomas better.

“We had an awesome time last year,” Rask said of his relationship with Thomas. “It’s a fair competition for both of us and I think it’s healthy for a team and for us when nobody takes anything for granted. We liked it and hopefully that continues.”

Thornton, who this offseason re-upped with the Bruins on a two-year pact, can agree.

“They’re both professionals,” said Thornton, who noted training camp competitions are a natural part of the game. “It’s the same for us. My job’s not guaranteed either, so every training camp you go in fighting for a spot. I think competition’s a good thing. I think it’s healthy. I’m sure Tuukka knows that job isn’t his and it’s not going to be given to him, so that’s healthy for them to push each other. We’re pretty fortunate to have two No. 1 goalies as far I’m concerned.”

Based on the statistics of the two, it’s hard to argue with Thornton’s logic. Both Thomas and Rask certainly have the pedigrees and reputations to suggest they could earn a starting job on most teams, but the younger of the two doesn’t seem to care about anything but what happens on the ice each night.

“Whoever is playing good is going to play,” Rask said matter-of-factly. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve got 16,000 Vezinas or zero Vezinas, you know? That’s just the way it goes on our team and that’s good for everybody I think.”

Rask appears to have put on a little weight, though it’s nothing noticeable enough to confuse him with any of the league’s bigger goaltenders. After playing last season at 171 pounds for a man who stands at 6-foot-2, any bulking up on the 23-year-old’s part seems welcomed to him.

“I’m, heavier. I don’t know if that’s because of the workouts or the food I ate. We’re getting there. I’m working out with [Bruins strength and conditioning coach] John Whitesides now so we’ll see in a couple weeks what things look like.”

Rask is back in the states for good until training camp opens in the middle of September. He pointed to working with Whitesides as a big reason for his early return, admitting that working out by himself isn’t as productive as working with a “real trainer.” Rask admitted his first full season in the NHL did feel him leaving a little rough when it came to the offseason, but as he trains for 2010-11, everything has been smooth sailing.

“I think it was about five or six weeks [after the season ended], and my body was still kind of feeling the season, but after that, everything was normal and you start doing your workouts and stuff like that and everything felt good,” Rask said. “No problems, but it always takes quite a time to recover fully.”

Rask signed a two-year extension with the Bruins in November and will earn $1.25 million in each of the next two seasons, at which point he will remain under the Bruins’ control as a restricted free agent.

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Thornton-Cooke the top fight of ’09-’10? 07.13.10 at 7:16 pm ET
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…Yikes. It appears that’s what NHL.com thinks. The league’s website put together a few videos of what it deemed the top fights of last season that it had on Tuesday, and it led off with the scuffle between Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton and Matt Cooke of the Penguins in the ultra-disappointing March 18 3-0 loss at the Garden.

The game was one that Bruins fans had on their calander as the day the Bruins would exact revenge on Cooke and the Penguins for taking center Marc Savard out of the equation with this dirty hit to the head, one that was deemed legal by head NHL disciplinarian and now father of a Bruin Colin Campbell (Gregory Campbell is his son). Read the rest of this entry »

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Thornton: ‘I wanted to be a Bruin as long as possible’ 06.04.10 at 2:37 pm ET
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Speaking with the media Friday afternoon in a conference call, newly re-upped Bruins forward Shawn Thornton and general manager Peter Chiarelli hit on what led to the tough winger’s two-year extension.

“I wanted to be a Bruin as long as possible,” Thornton said. I love the city, I love being here and I’m still here so I’m really happy to be back and I’m glad we could make it happen.”

With the team just three weeks away from adding a wunderkind prospect in the NHL draft, Chiarelli spoke of what it means to retain a key veteran when seeing an influx of youth.

“It’s important to have any good veteran to help out with the younger guys,” Chiarelli said. “Shawn’s career path has not been the easiest and he commands a level of respect for that reason. … He’s put in his time and he’s put in his work and he’s been rewarded for it.”

Chiarelli also spoke of the team’s ongoing plan of adding players that are “tough to play against.” He once again mentioned the trade market as a means for continuing to build such a squad but also maintained that Thornton, who he referred to as “a terrific soldier” who is “always among the leaders in fisticuffs,” fits the bill.
When asked whether the disappointing second-round exit in seven games to the Flyers has added any determination entering next season, Thornton was a bit slow to answer, almost confused by the notion.
“I like to think I’m always kind of starving,” Thornton said. “[The series] left a bad taste in my mouth but I try to come in and prepare the same way every year.”
Thornton finished fifth in the NHL this past season with 21 fighting majors. He was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and Chiarelli and the Bruins felt confident all along that a deal would be reached before he could hit the market.
“It was something that we wanted to do and we’ve talked about it for a while with Shawn and his group,” Chiarelli said, later adding, “We knew we would get it done beforehand.

“It was a good decision that we made, it was a relatively easy decision that we made and we’re happy to have him back.”

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Thornton gets two-year extension at 10:49 am ET
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The Bruins have signed winger Shawn Thornton, set to become a free agent on July 1, to a two-year extension that will run through 2012, according to a Bruins press release.

Thornton has racked up 338 regular season penalty minutes in his three years as a Bruin, with 141 of them coming last season. He has totaled 28 regular season points in his tenure in Boston. The 2009-2010 season saw him record a career-high nine assists while finishing fifth in the NHL with 21 fighting majors.

While financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, the Boston Globe is reporting that the deal is worth $1.625 million. Thornton and GM Peter Chiarelli will speak with the media this afternoon, so check back here throughout the day.

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Bruins to ‘embrace challenge’ of Game 7 05.13.10 at 12:53 am ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Sometimes you just have to tell yourself things will be okay in the face of adversity.

The Bruins will spend the next 24 hours preparing themselves and reassuring themselves of the positives – namely win one game on home ice and earn the right to have home ice advantage against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference finals.

Only minutes after losing their third straight in the series to the Flyers, 2-1, many Bruins attempted to put on a brave face as they now face a do-or-die Game 7 at TD Garden on Friday night.

“Like my buddy once said, ‘Pressure is five kids, no job.’ This is just fun,” Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. “Game 7. Enjoy it. Just drink it in as they say.”

Milan Lucic, who scored Boston’s only goal and the first by the Bruins in nearly 135 minutes of play in the series, also attempted to put things in perspective.

“We’re just looking forward to the challenge ahead of us,” Lucic said. “We know it’s going to be an exciting game. I’m not nervous. I think you have to embrace the struggle, embrace the challenge and have fun with it.”

Of course, if the Bruins don’t win, they join the 1942 Detroit Red Wings, the 1975 Pittsburgh Penguins and the 2004 New York Yankees as the only teams in major professional North American sports to blow a 3-0 lead and lose a best-of-seven series.

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Taking the edge off the Bruins 05.11.10 at 2:30 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Somebody needs to take a little bit of an edge off these Bruins.

Captain Zdeno Chara made a half-admission after Game 5 on Monday night that the team may have been a touch nervous heading into what could have been a series-clinching victory.

I don’t know if we were maybe a little bit nervous. It’s hard to explain and really find words for it so for sure we didn’t play with the composure we were playing with,” Chara said Monday. “Maybe it wasn’t nervous, it was just… we couldn’t make those plays we normally do, strong plays with the puck, plays that we are normally doing and all of the sudden it was tough for us to make those plays.”

In the grand world of hockey cliches, this is what is called “clutching the stick.” The Bruins need someone, be it Johnny Boychuk and his eccentric antics, Shawn Thornton and his smile and his wife’s cooking or Claude Julien putting “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” on repeat on the team plane.

“Everybody can keep it loose and there is no reason to tense up and grip the sticks too tight,” Boychuk said. “We know what we have to do and just go out there and do it. There are times to keep loose and times to focus and we know that and that is what we have been trying to do.”

Thornton was of the opinion that, heading into Game 5, the team was relatively loose and had a good energy level. For the most part the Bruins tend to be a loose team. Chara and Patrice Bergeron are serious with the media and on the ice but there are moments when you catch them joking around with the guys. Thornton thinks that everybody on the team has a role to play in taking the edge off. He would not name specific characters for fear of being labeled the jokester by the coaching staff.

“We have got a few guys who like to keep things loose. It wasn’t too tense today [Tuesday,” Thornton said. “We did a pretty good job of forgetting about losses and forgetting about wins and moving on. We learned some things today and move on to the next one. There is nothing you can do. There was only seven on the ice but before the game too, there was a lot of energy. I don’t know. We definitely didn’t play the game we wanted to but honestly I thought going into it that we felt pretty good.”

Coach Claude Julien agreed that everybody on the teams plays their part in keeping the room loose and said that, when it really come down to it, winning is what puts a smiles on everyone’s face.

“We all have a part to do in that. I am telling you right now that we have too put yesterday aside and learn from it,” Julien said. “That is what the players have to do and so do the coaches. You know, we have to take the same approach as a group and that is what we have done here. We have to focus as a group and do what we need to do tomorrow and hopefully those are good things and that we can come back with smiles on our faces.”

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