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Which Tuukka Rask will the Bruins see this season? 08.25.11 at 4:52 am ET
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With captains’ practices just two short weeks from commencing, WEEI.com will be looking at the questions facing the defending Stanley Cup champions in the 2011-12 season.

Tuukka Rask could see more starts in the coming season. (AP)

Up next is the question of what goaltender Tuukka Rask’s season will hold. The case of Rask is an interesting one, as he was the best statistical goalie in the league in 2009-10 before watching Tim Thomas wrest the starting job away last year. There are other factors at work as well, including the offseason knee surgery he’s coming off of and the fact that he’ll be a restricted free agent at season’s end.

Speaking prior to Milan Lucic’s Rock and Jock softball game Wednesday in Lowell, Rask discussed the arthroscopic procedure he had on his left knee. The surgery required between four and five weeks recovery time, but Rask is now feeling healthy after suffering the injury midway through last season.

Could the knee be the reason as to why Rask went from having a league-best 1.97 goals against average and .931 save percentage in 2009-10 to posting a mediocre 2.67 GAA and .918 save percentage last season? He isn’t ready to say so, as he denied feeling significant discomfort in the knee.

“It actually happened in January, I tweaked it, but it didn’t stop me from playing or practicing,” Rask said. “It was just something that we saw that was better to fix, because it would have bugged [me] in the future at some point, so it was just a minor fix-up, but the recovery was a few weeks.”

Now, whether it’s through health or increased playing time, Rask has to be hoping to post better numbers this season. There is certainly something to be said for a goaltender getting in a rhythm, and Thomas’ dominance made it nearly impossible for the Bruins to give Rask the amount of time a netminder of his caliber deserves.

If it is more time between the pipes that will lead to more 2009-10-like numbers, Rask could be in luck. Yes, Thomas is unquestionably the best goaltender in the league right now, but he is also the oldest player to win the Vezina since the adaptation of its current criteria. Rask played in only 29 games last year, good for approximately 35 percent of the regular season schedule. Assuming neither player gets injured, the Bruins could go with a closer split to give each guy a chance to take control of the job a la Thomas last season. Additionally, if the two split time a little more evenly than last season, neither goaltender would run as big a risk of getting cold.

Then there’s the matter of the guys playing in front of him. The Bruins often struggled to give him whatever the hockey equivalent of run support is (he had an 11-14-2 record), and players often lamented the way they played in front of Rask following losses. If both Rask and his teammates can pick it up in games he starts this season, he could be a richer man come next summer. The guess here is that he gets upwards of 35 starts and posts a GAA somewhere in the 2.20 range.

One thing that is safe to say about Rask is that he won’t be a poor sport if he ends up spending more time on the bench. He was among the most chipper Bruins during their Cup run, wearing Nathan Horton’s helmet for fun and commonly being in the middle of Bruins’ on-ice celebrations after series wins. He said Wednesday that it’s the up-and-down nature of the last two seasons that have taught him to be a team guy no matter what.

“I mean, anything can happen, right?” Rask said of what he’s learned. “And you’ve just got to go day-by-day and no matter what, be a great teammate, because even if you’re playing or you’re not playing, you’ve still got to support the guys and be a part of the group, so that was the really big thing I learned the past two years.”

Read More: Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask,
Report: Tuukka Rask, Milan Lucic set for surgery 06.23.11 at 4:52 pm ET
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According to a pair of tweets from the Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask and forward Milan Lucic are set to have offseason surgery. Rask is expected to have minor knee surgery to clean up an cartilage issue that had plagued the second-year player throughout the team’s championship season, while Dupont tweets that Lucic will have nose surgery.

Lucic played late in the season and into the playoffs dealing with a sinus infection. He then broke his toe when a Tyler Seguin slapshot went off his foot in practice during the Eastern Conference finals. After leading the B’s with 30 goals in the regular season, Lucic finished tied for fifth on the team with five playoff goals.

Rask, who led the NHL with a 1.97 goals against average and a .931 save percentage in the 2009-10 season (his rookie campaign), lost the starting job to Tim Thomas this past season. In 29 games (27 starts), he went 11-14-2 with a 2.67 GAA and .918 save percentage.

Read More: Milan Lucic, Tuukka Rask,
Peter Chiarelli happy he didn’t trade Tim Thomas 06.17.11 at 1:19 pm ET
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Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was a popular guy last offseason, as he was brought up in trade rumors, some of which were falsely reported. Though the goalie was never going to Philadelphia in exchange for Simon Gagne, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Friday at TD Garden that he did have talks with other teams about Thomas, who was coming off hip surgery, had lost his starting job to Tuukka Rask and at the time had three years of a $5 million annual cap hit left on his deal.

“At the time there was kind of a mutually agreement between myself and Tim and Bill Zito, Tim’s agent, just to explore it and on the premise that Tim does not want to leave Boston,” Chiarelli said of trading Thomas. “And that’s really where it ended. It’s really where it ended. And there was some calls in that and they kept him in the loop at all times and he kept stressing he didn’t want to leave. I said ‘I know, let’s just look at this very briefly.’ And I know there are a lot of stories that flowed from it, but I can’t stress enough the fact that Tim never wanted to leave.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I at least didn’t look at some things, and I did. You go through those things, on a number of fronts on a number of fronts, on a number of players. You just field stuff, you look at them, you talk to other teams. And at the end of the day you make the decision yay or nay. And here it was nay. And it was an easy nay.”

Thomas ended up reclaiming the starting job, turning in a shutout in his first start of the season Oct. 10 in Prague against the Coyotes. He ended up allowing just three goals in six starts in October, and even after leveling out was still dominant throughout a season that will undoubtedly earn him his second Vezina trophy in Vegas next week. His .938 save percentage is the best for a goalie in a single season since the stat has been recorded.

Thomas was also named the Conn Smythe trophy winner after the Stanley Cup finals concluded. The award is given to the player most valuable to his team during the playoffs, and Thomas clearly proved that by allowing just eight goals in the seven-game series vs. the Canucks.

Thomas, 37, has two years with a $5 million cap hit left on his contract.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Peter Chiarelli, Stanley Cup Finals, Tim Thomas
Bruins-killer Simon Gagne: ‘They’re on a mission’ 05.14.11 at 12:57 pm ET
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Simon Gagne should be used to facing the Bruins in the playoffs by now. A season ago, he was arguably the man that sunk them in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Simon Gagne has a new team, but hopes for the same result as last year. (AP)

With the Bruins holding a 3-0 series lead over Philadelphia, Gagne, then a Flyer, returned to the lineup for Game 4 after a broken toe suffered in the first round vs. the Devils kept him out of the beginning of the series. Gagne scored the game-winning goal in overtime to keep the Flyers alive in the series, and added a pair of goals three days later in a 4-0 Phialdelphia win in Game 5. His most crucial goal of the series would come in Game 7, when he notched the go-ahead tally in the third period following a costly too-many-ice penalty taken by the Bruins. The goal was the game-winner, and it capped the Flyers’ comeback from trailing, 3-0, in both the series and Game 7.

Now, Gagne is once again returning from a playoff absence (this time a head injury suffered in the second round) to face the Bruins, but it’s as a member of the Lightning following an offseason trade. Gagne watched the last series between his old mates and the Bruins, and he said Saturday that he sees a difference from a season ago.

“It’s a different team from last year,” Gagne said. “They got some new guys, Thomas is in net now, so it’s a different team than last year. It looks like this year, they’re on a mission, and that’s the way it felt when I saw them play against Philly. Philly’s a good team, and they beat them in four games. That means they’re a really good team.”

Including guys who played sparingly last year in rookies Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid, eight of the Bruins’ regulars as they enter Game 1 of the conference finals were newcomers to the lineup this year. Yet while the emergence of guys like Marchand and the addition of Nathan Horton have been massive for the B’s, the biggest change for them involves a guy who was around last year in Thomas. At least that’s the way Gagne sees it.

“Last year, Tuukka Rask was actually playing really, really good for them,” Gagne said of the youngster who started every game between the pipes for the Bruins last postseason. “Everybody thought that he was going to be the goalie for the future for Boston. I think he’s still their goalie of the future — I don’t think he’s going to go anywhere — but to see Thomas coming back after a tough season last year with injuries, to see him play like that surprised a lot of people, but at the same time, he was good before he got hurt. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see him playing that good.”

The Bruins and Thomas will hope to continue their “mission” Saturday night, while Gagne just hopes he can continue to feed his reputation of postseason Bruins-killer.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Simon Gagne, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask
Bruins fall to Devils in regular season finale 04.10.11 at 5:20 pm ET
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The Bruins finished their regular season schedule Sunday, taking a 3-2 loss to the Devils in New Jersey.

Tuukka Rask took the loss for the B’s, getting the start after Tim Thomas sealed the single-season save percentage record in his final start Saturday. Rask allowed goals to Patrik Elias, Vladimir Zharkov and Alexander Urbom.

Rich Peverley scored the first goal for the Bruins, beating Johan Hedberg for his 18th goal of the year. A Dennis Seidenberg shot with less than four seconds remaining also yielded a Boston goal. Mark Recchi and Zdeno Chara did not play for the Bruins, as they stayed in Boston after playing the first 81 games of the season.

The Bruins finished the regular season with a 46-25-11 record and 103 points. They will be the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed when they go against the Canadiens in the playoffs begin next week.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- The game didn’t mean anything, but the B’s shouldn’t have shown it the way they did in the second period. They had just one shot on the goal in the second, while the Devils had 10.

- The one injury scare came for rookie Tyler Seguin, who took a high stick in the second period and left the bench, though it did not appear serious and he returned to the game in the third period.

- Dennis Seidenberg was on the ice for the first two Devils goals. He took the shot that led to the the final goal, but his minus-1 rating on the game means he finishes the season with a plus-3, worst among Bruins defensemen this season.

- Nathan Horton did not register a shot on goal Sunday, making it the 10th game this season in which he had zero shots on goal. Horton has picked it up of late (six goals over the final 10 games), but he needs to put pucks on net if he wants them to go in.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- Nobody was hurt, and that’s the biggest thing the Bruins could have been hoping for in a meaningless regular-season-ending game.

More importantly, Tuukka Rask did not get injured or yanked in the game. He made the save of the game on David Clarkson in the second period. Plus, imagine all the re-adjusting of the Tim Thomas record stories.

- Peverley scored for the second time in as many games. The Bruins need to have both the David Krejci line and the Patrice Bergeron line going at the same time once the playoffs start, but it’s good to see that they are finally getting something out of Chris Kelly’s line.

Read More: Dennis Seidenberg, Rich Peverley, Tuukka Rask,
Bruins hold final regular season practice 04.08.11 at 11:10 am ET
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WILMINGTON — With two weekend games on the horizon, the Bruins took the ice Friday morning at Ristuccia Arena for their final practice of the regular season. Prior to the skate, Gregory Campbell, Tyler Seguin, David Krejci and Nathan Horton shot on Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas.

The color-coded jerseys are the same, as they look as follows:

Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Mark Recchi

Rich Peverley – Chris Kelly – Michael Ryder/Tyler Seguin

Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Shawn Thornton

Read More: Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask
Shawn Thornton shows again why he’s not just the toughest Bruin, he’s their funniest, too 04.06.11 at 11:24 pm ET
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Forget the fact that he is regarded by many as their toughest player, if everyone on the Bruins had Shawn Thornton‘s energy, the team would never be accused of taking nights off. Thornton is trying to make sure that the Bruins are fired up for the playoffs that start next week.

His goal at the latest possible moment (19:59.9) of the first period got the Bruins going in his first game back and helped the Bruins to a 3-2 win over the Islanders at TD Garden. The Bruins have 101 points now but to Thornton, the more important mission in the final two games is to keep focus.

“Just keeping that rhythm I think,” Thornton said. “Keeping our confidence. Keeping the fun going into the playoffs. This is the best time of the year. The weather is getting nice. You have to want to come to the rink this time of year. For me that’s the biggest thing: to stay upbeat, confident and play our game.

As their coach Claude Julien pointed out afterward, the Bruins did not look sharp in the win as there were defensive breakdowns that allowed the Islanders back in the game, two days after blowing a 3-0 lead to the Rangers in New York.

“I mean there were some lapses,” Thornton said. “We just have to play our game and not worry who we’re playing against. When we’re playing our style of game we’re a really, really good team. When we get away from that, we’ve seen it through the years what happens there. As long as we continue to play our game plan we’ll be a pretty good team.”

As for who they’ll be playing in the first round, Thornton said it doesn’t matter to him since he’s not even paying attention to the standing right now.

“You’re talking to the wrong guy,” Thornton said. “I don’t ever pay attention to the standings. No I don’t know what is going on. Maybe the other guys are different, but I just kind of focus on what’s going on today and don’t worry about the rest.”

After scoring his 10th goal of the season in his first game back since a nasty injury to his forehead, Thornton was also quick to give credit to his assistant coaches and back-up goalie Tuukka Rask after Wednesday’s win. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Daniel Paille, New York Islanders, NHL
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