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Duo, B's Hope to be More Dynamic

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Ottawa Senators' Jonathan Cheechoo (41) tries to control the puck in front of Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas as Derek Morris (53) comes in to defend in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Boston, MA – Both Bruins goaltenders saw time in Monday’s loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Veteran netminder Tim Thomas (30:04) started the game and yielded to rookie backstop Tuukka Rask (29:56) halfway through the contest as the fifth-ranked goalie tandem in the NHL (with a combined 2.34 goals against average and a .921 save percentage) attempted to stem the tide against Daniel Alfredsson (3 goals) and his Ottawa club.

“It’s not much fun anytime that you’re losing three to nothing,” said Thomas (31 games played, 2.45 GAA, .918 sv%) afterward. “It’s not much fun, whether you’re in the net or skating off the ice.”

Boston head coach Claude Julien was hesitant to talk specifics about his strategy of pulling last season’s Vezina Trophy winner.

“Does it really matter?” asked Julien of the gathered media. “Me, I’m not going to stand here and tell you why, because I have my reasons.

“But I think that anybody that watched the game can see a little bit of everything.”

Eventually, Julien went on to suggest that he made his decision in an attempt to redirect the game’s direction.

“Our team wasn’t great tonight,” he said. “So you try and find ways to hopefully change the momentum, find ways to do something to try and make your team better.

“You do what you can, and that’s what I tried to do.”

The Senators took an early 2-0 lead on only three shots in the first period. That momentum took Ottawa into the second session, where they extended their lead to 3-0 before the B's head coach made the decision to switch goaltenders a little over 10 minutes into the period.

“It’s never easy to come in when you’re cold, but as long as you get the first saves, you kind of feel more confident,” said Rask (20 GP, 2.09 GAA, .928 sv%). “After that and I think I saw the puck pretty good, and guys made good blocks there too and it’s not easy, but you just got to do your best.”

The swap was not enough to spark the Bruins, as evidenced by Ottawa’s 4-0 lead going into the third and despite a third period goal by the B’s, the game came to a close with 5-1 Ottawa decision.

Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask, of Finland, sprawls on the ice as Ottawa Senators' Jonathan Cheechoo (41) scores behind him in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010, in Boston. The Senators won 5-1. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
“He didn’t get too many shots, but those shots that he did get were quality chances,” said defenseman Johnny Boychuk about the B’s starter. “It’s not really fair for him when the only shots that get on him are good scoring opportunities.”

Alfredsson and the Sens also crashed Thomas and Rask’s net very effectively.

“He’s a difference-maker for sure in this league,” said Rask of Alfredsson. “He’s been the past many years…but it looked like he got some good looks to the net and you know, they screened us pretty well too.

“I mean I think Timmy didn’t see that one he scored and I didn’t see that one he shot from the point either, so give him credit, but give the other guys too, because big bodies screen you.”

Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston confirmed Rask’s diagnosis.

“We have to get that presence in front and make it more difficult for Thomas,” said the Ottawa bench boss. “If he can see it he is going to make the save.

“We had a couple goals [where] we had traffic in front of him and that is obviously part of it.”

Beyond the big afternoon for Ottawa’s top playmaker, many of the Bruins explained that the fatigue of the West Coast road trip, compounded with the early afternoon game, made it difficult for the B’s to find their legs.

“Yeah, it’s understandable…after a three-game road trip, [where] some of the guys get a lot of responsibility there and got to play a lot of minutes,” said Rask. “Obviously, it’s not an excuse, but it’s the truth.”

Julien agreed it was a contributing factor, but, like Rask, wouldn't pin the entire loss on fatigue.

“It’s nothing new; certainly don’t want to use that as an excuse,” said Julien of the tight schedule. “Our goal tonight was to come in and defy that challenge and come in and play well and unfortunately they got an early goal and they got the momentum going their way and we just couldn’t recover.”

Thomas echoed the sentiments of his goaltending partner and coach.

“I think we tried to put on our game faces as well as we could and pretend like that wasn’t going to affect us, but in the end, it partially did,” Thomas said. “It’s no excuse, we’re professionals, and we've got to find a way to battle through that.

“We all wanted to, we weren’t able to.”

The Bruins are now tied with Ottawa in the Northeast Division standings and, as evidenced by Rask’s statements, the club knows what kind of task lay ahead.

“Yeah, we knew what the situation is in the standings and we wanted to make a difference [on Monday],” he said. “But you know, we lost and now…it’s tied and we get them again on Saturday.

“We have to deal with Columbus first and then get ready to beat these guys on Saturday.”

Samantha Wood contributed to this report.
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