BOSTON (CBS) – You’d be forgiven if after the 119-day NHL lockout you showed up at TD Garden for the first day of Bruins training camp and wondered “Where’s Tim Thomas?”
It seems like eons ago that the two-winner of the Vezina Trophy declared he wouldn’t report back to the Bruins for the 2012-13 season, which has now been shortened to the 2013 season because of the work stoppage.
Well, the league-wide layoff did nothing to change the goaltender’s mind, as Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli explained Sunday before his team took the Garden ice in preparation for the 48-game schedule that begins next Saturday against the New York Rangers.
But aside from Thomas, who Chiarelli said will be suspended for this season, the Bruins’ first day of camp was more about the returnees rather than the absentees. As part of a roster that’s almost completely the same from last year (and the 2011 Stanley Cup championship squad), Tuukka Rask is back to take his place as the No. 1 goaltender, and twice-concussed power forward Nathan Horton has come back to make the Bruins’ first line whole again.
“He’s gone through all the steps of development, and he’s passed them all with flying colors. He should be ready for the challenge,” Chiarelli said about Rask.
Rask was one of 12 Bruins players that skated overseas during the lockout. So he should be somewhat sharp when the slate of games opens up. He’s ready to deal with not just the pressure of being Boston’s go-to guy but also the perils that come with a shortened regular-season schedule.
“I just try to get going on the right foot because the start’s going to be important for us, as it is for everybody. I just try to make sure that I take care of my business and I take my part as good as I can and get off to a good start,” Rask said.
Horton has been symptom-free for quite some time and spent a lot of time working out on his own, on and off the ice. He chose not to play overseas because of family matters and the chance to fully recover from last winter’s concussion. While his conditioning is up to par, he has to shake off the rust that some of overseas-playing teammates don’t have to deal with.
“Just what you get from playing games,” he said about the difference between his play and that of his teammates. “That’s why you see guys that didn’t play games doing a little bit more out there. Practices are pretty tough, but you don’t want to kill yourself, you don’t want to wear yourself out. But you want to get as best as you can into game shape.”
If Horton’s and everyone’s health stays solid, there will be just one forward spot and one defense spot up for grabs this week. Chiarelli said he expects rookie Dougie Hamilton to “earn a spot” on the roster, and a handful of players might win that spot on the left wing of the third line.
With so much talent and continuity, a one-week training camp shouldn’t hold the Bruins back much. Tim Thomas might even wish he wasn’t going to miss it.