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Khudobin on Return to Bruins: "I Just Came Back to the Family”

by Eric Russo / Boston Bruins

BOSTONAnton Khudobin was born and raised in Kazakhstan. For him, it will always be home.

But when the 30-year-old goaltender touched down in Boston on Saturday, he couldn’t help but have that same kind of familiarity. It had been three years since he suited up for the Bruins, yet it felt like he never left.

“I have my home back in Russia,” said Khudobin, who played 14 games with the Bruins in 2012-13. “But at the same time – this is my 10th year in the United States – whenever I got to Boston, I always feel comfortable inside of my body. It’s not like I have to know something new.”

There is a certain coziness for Khudobin here in the Hub. As he said, he doesn’t have to search for the nearest Whole Foods or barbershop. He knows the Bruins coaching staff and many of the players.

For all of those reasons, Khudobin was ecstatic to sign a two-year contract, worth an average annual value of $1.2 million, with the Black & Gold on July 1, the opening day of free agency.

“I always had great conversations with the players, with the coaches, with the management, no matter who it would be,” Khudobin said Tuesday morning following Bruins captain’s practice.

“I met my friends, we went on Sunday to Downtown Boston…I couldn’t believe I came back. It felt like I just came back in the season. It didn’t feel like I haven’t been here for three years.

“It’s just the comfort level, the style of city, the people around here, everything. I’m just really comfortable being inside here.”

After two seasons in Providence, Khudobin became Tuukka Rask’s backup for the big club in 2013, during the Bruins run to the Stanley Cup Final. He was a vital part of the B's roster, someone coach Claude Julien could trust to spell Rask when needed.

Khudobin posted a 9-4-1 record, with a 2.32 goals against average and .920 save percentage, during the lockout-shortened campaign, a performance that earned him a free-agent deal with Carolina. He went on to play 70 games over two seasons with the Hurricanes, before playing just nine games for the Anaheim Ducks last year.

“It was two good seasons in Carolina,” said Khudobin. “And last year, I wouldn’t say that it was good, but it was up and down, as you always have in your career. It’s normal. Right now, I’m in my spot and I’m really happy to be back.”

The veteran netminder feels that he has an opportunity to revive his career.

“Focus on my game,” Khudobin said of his mindset entering the 2016-17 season. “Focus on helping the team get some more points and get higher in the standings – making playoffs always [is the goal].

“More playing time, of course, is always good for the goalies. But I know Tuukka is going to play more and he’s No. 1, so I just focus on my game and how I’m going to help the team.”

Khudobin said there has yet to be much discussion on how many games he will play this season or if there will be competition with some of the Bruins young prospects.

“You always have to compete, no matter which position you play,” he said. “No matter how big is your contract, you always have to compete. You always have to show that you’re capable of doing what you are doing.”

For now, however, the Bruins backstop is just happy to be back playing for a team – and a city – that means so much to him.

“I always was saying I was really happy here,” said Khudobin. “My time in Boston, in Providence, I was really happy – with the organization, with the team, with the coaching staff, with everything.

“I was really missing this place, to be honest. So, right now, I just came back to the family.”

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