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WILMINGTON Claude Julien wouldnt come right out and sayit over the last few days, but everybody and their mother knows thatTim Thomas will be between the pipes on Oct. 6 when the Bruins face theFlyers at TD Garden for NHL opening night.
But hellfirst get the nod in the final preseason tune-up against the New YorkIslanders Saturday night in Bridgeport at the home of the Isles AHLclub after facing only 20 shots in Thursday nights 2-1 loss to theSenators. While the 18-save game was a step up for Thomas after lettingup a couple of bad goals early in his preseason debut at the Gardenagainst the Isles, everyone knows that the 37-year-old can bebetter.
You knowthe plan is certainly to play him next game against the Islanders andsee where he is, said Claude Julien. If everything is good well makethose decisions in a week from now or a few daysbefore.
Thomas said hes on track to where hewants to be starting for the Bs on opening night, and doesnt need tosee 40 or 50 shots before proclaiming himself ready to start theregular season.
Its good to get experience with alot of shots on net and just a few shots on net, because its going tohappen at times. Even when there arent shots, you still get yourpractice out of games because youre still moving and youre stillfighting through traffic to see the pass, said Thomas. So when yourenot getting a lot of shots you focus on some of the other stuff. So ina way it can be better because when youre getting a ton of shots youdont have time to worry about anytechnique.
Thomas hasnt seemed concerned at allabout playing only a pair of preseason games as the Bruins are takingthe slow, cautious approach to their supremely talented goaltenderheading into this season, and alluded to last years 82 game workloadwhen saying he played in enough games lastyear.
The rest is certainly needed for a goaliethat didnt get a chance to truly push himself in the offseason afterwinning every goaltending award known to man. Thomas doesnt start theseason with much to prove, but has already voiced his desire to repeatas the Vezina Trophy winner, Conn Smythe Trophy winner and as theStanley Cup champion again next year.
He could pullall three and even make a run at the Hart Trophy if things go wellfor the Bruins and their goaltender this season, but hell need alittle help from Tuukka Rask as a capable understudy this season.
That whole journey begins after one last littletrip to an AHL rink on Saturday night for Thomas and the rest of theBruins.