February 12, 2011

Rask's resurgence, rest for Thomas go hand-in-hand

Bruins netminder Tim Thomas. (Getty)

WILMINGTON -- After Friday night's 6-1 drubbing, the Bruins gathered for practice at Ristuccia Arena on Saturday to regroup and figure out how to bounce back in the second half of their home-and-home series against the Red Wings.

"I think it's pretty obvious what we have to do," head coach Claude Julien said, as the Black and Gold will invade Joe Louis Arena on Sunday afternoon.

"We certainly were not on top of our game and we let them play their game comfortably. They're a highly-skilled team and you respect that, but you also have to play your game. The goals against were uncharacteristic for us; running around and out of position. We have to be better in a lot of different areas."

 While the Red Wings cycled the puck and maintained possession in the B's zone for prolonged stretches on Friday, Julien believes his team became a bit mesmerized and started running around because of it.

 "We ran out of position last night a lot," he said. "When one guy runs out of position, another one tries to compensate and it just kind of snowballs."

 After stating that  he'd wait until Sunday to decide who would be in net, Julien reiterated that he has yet to come to a decision on the matter.

  "I'll sleep on a lot of things tonight, not just the goaltending," he said. "I think we've got some decisions to make tomorrow."

 After watching Tuukka Rask allow five goals in the first 40 minutes of play before turning to Tim Thomas for the final frame, which goaltender to go with is likely the most pressing issue for the B's bench boss as another start could be a major pick-me-up for the struggling Rask.

 "I don't think there's any concerns," Julien said when asked if Rask could be going through some confidence issues. "He had that tough game in Buffalo but bounced back the next game and played well. Right now, we're all hoping -- including himself -- that he can get himself in a bit of a role and play well. When he plays well you can use him a little bit more."

 Rask's ability to win games down the stretch will be crucial for the Bruins, not just because it will elevate their spot in the standings but because the team can ill-afford to burn out Thomas before the postseason kicks off.

 "I'd like to be able to balance it out in a way that Tim gets some rest and Tuukka plays a little bit more," said Julien. "He knows that we feel comfortable when both goaltenders are on top of their game. Both of them are good enough to be No. 1's in this league.

 "One of them is playing like one and the other isn't there yet. Right now we need to see it, because it's important to get (Rask) in the game, but it's just as important to win hockey games. We need Tuukka to be at his best."

The coach admittedly has the playoffs in mind as the regular season winds down, and knows that overworking either half of his tandem won't bode well for the B's chances of going on a long run in the postseason.

 "It's just as important to get Tim his rest as it is for Tuukka to find his game," Julien said. "They actually go hand-in-hand. That's what we're trying to create here. If we do, then we're going to put ourselves in a better position at the end of the year to have two good goaltenders who are hopefully as fresh as they can be."