BOSTON (CBS) – With one week left until the season-opener against Philadelphia, Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien isn’t ready to anoint goaltender Tim Thomas as his opening-night starter despite last year’s record-breaking season from the veteran puck-stopper.
After Thomas stopped just 18 of 20 shots in a preseason loss to Ottawa at TD Garden Thursday, Julien was non-committal about Thomas being ready to face the Flyers in a week’s time.
“I think we’ll have to wait and see,” said Julien. “You know the plan is certainly to play him next game and see where he is and if everything is good we’ll make those decisions in a week from now or a few days before.”
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Thomas hasn’t exactly been airtight through his two full preseason games with a .861 save percentage (31 saves on 36 shots) and a 1-1-0 record. But that doesn’t mean Thomas isn’t on the right track in relation to getting ready for games that count.
“Not bad,” he responded when asked about his conditioning after the Senators scored twice to beat him in the third period. “I feel, pretty good. I daily feel better. And I think I’m on track for where I want to be.”
That track’s been a little difficult to get on because Thomas hasn’t had to work too hard with just those 36 shots coming his way. Thomas, though, isn’t worried that he’s not seeing enough shots.
“It’s good to get experience for both ways, because it’s going to happen at times,” said Thomas. “I think you could, even when there’s not shots, you still get your practice out of games because you’re still moving and you’re still fighting through traffic to see [the puck], to follow the pass and stuff like that. So when you’re not getting a lot of shots you focus on some of the other stuff. So in a way it can be better because when you’re getting a ton of shots you don’t have time to worry about any technique.”
Thomas said after the Senators game that he was open to playing in the Bruins’ preseason finale in Bridgeport against the New York Islanders Saturday. That’s good he said that because Julien then confirmed Thomas would play Thomas for at least part of that contest. Julien also expects to make sure Thomas gets his fill of shots in practice.
The notion that Thomas wouldn’t be between the pipes the night the championship banner gets raised is a bit preposterous and probably more of a ploy by Julien to make sure no one, not even his All-World goaltender, starts to get too comfortable.
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We know that Julien’s plan is lessen Thomas’ workload and use the younger Tuukka Rask more often that season. That’s unlikely to start on such a historic night at the Garden.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com. He operates TheBruinsBlog.net and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.