Playoff-bound B's look to balance roster

Playoff-bound B's look to balance roster
March 28, 2011, 7:01 pm
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By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON -- Tim Thomas didn't realize it until after the game, but the Bruins clinched a playoff spot in Sunday night's 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Now he knows. After Monday's practice Thomas was asked about the work he expects in the final seven games of the regular season. The Bruins' No. 1 goaltender responded by saying he doesn't know, nor care, because he doesn't feel tired.

"There's nothing in my head," said Thomas. "It's completely blank. It's scary sometimes.

"I feel pretty good," he added. "Usually, you can tell how I'm feeling physically. You can see it on the ice."

Thomas is playing as well as he has all season, allowing only two goals on 83 shots in his last three starts, all against playoff teams.

On Monday, Bruins coach Claude Julien briefly addressed his team's strategy over the next seven games, and the amount of playing time that Thomas receives will certainly be discussed in the near future. Julien said that he plans to perform some type of balancing act in order to get extra defensemen Steve Kampfer and Shane Hnidy, as well as forward Daniel Paille and goaltender Tuukka Rask, some playing time in case they're needed in the playoffs.

"Down the road, you're going to see us moving some of those guys in there, and try to make sure that we keep everybody, more or less, in the loop," Julien said after Monday's practice. "But at the same time, you want to make sure you have a roster that you feel comfortable with.

"So we're going to kind of try and balance that out, whether it's goaltenders, whether it's D's, or even forwards for that matter."

As of Monday, the Bruins are one of four Eastern Conference teams to clinch a playoff spot. Barring a complete collapse in the last seven games, combined with an all-out surge from the Montreal Canadiens in that span, it's safe to say that the Bruins will remain atop the Northeast division and will enter the playoffs as a top-three seed in the East.

Seeing that last year's Eastern Conference Final was a battle between the seventh and eighth seeds in the conference, the motivation to pull out all the stops in order to overtake the second-seeded Washington Capitals or the first-place Philadelphia Flyers isn't really present in the Bruins' locker room.

However, Julien did express on Monday that he doesn't want to enter a first-round postseason series on a negative note.

"It's nice to clinch with more than just a game or two left in the season," said Julien. "Right now, the challenge is going to be to keep our game going in the right direction, and not get complacent and comfortable, and hopefully get into the playoffs with confidence, and the team firing on cylinders.

"Normally, when you play well, the results are in your favor. I don't think we want to go in there saying it's a must-win, but it's a game that we must play extremely well, with the intentions of winning."

Those intentions begin on Tuesday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.