BOSTON – Claude Julien visited the TD Garden this morning and although his office light was one of just a few burning in and around the B's locker room, the B's head coach was already thinking about next season, particularly in the light of Tim Thomas' decision to take some time off from hockey.
"Well I think, you know, Tim has made his decision and as a coach my philosophy doesn't change, and it's about dealing with the players that you have in front of you," said Julien. "We all know that Tuukka [Rask] is a very capable goaltender. He's proven it time-after-time. We got an opportunity to see [Anton] Khudobin in action in Ottawa one of the last games of the season, and he handled that game extremely well - he was phenomenal.
"So we still feel confident that we have some great goaltenders. Tim has been a great goaltender for us, and what he's done will certainly never be forgotten, but at the same time it's important for me to take the news and move forward with it. I'm looking forward to working with some of these other goaltenders."
Clearly, many teams would be straining under the weight of such heavy news, but Julien insisted that both Rask and Khudobin are game to carry the load in Boston's goal.
"He's done it and he's had great stats, you know, and even the stats that we keep that people don't see," said Julien of Rask. "Last year until the injury he was extremely good for us and he was having a phenomenal year."
When Rask needs rest, Julien believes Khudobin, who has worked hard to put himself in top condition, will be there to both back up and challenge Tuukka.
"He's improved a lot," said Julien of Khudobin. "Conditioning was one of the main things that he had to work on, and he did a tremendous job of that last year.
"Having said that, I think we know that Tuukka is a very capable goaltender…but at the same time Tuukka has not been exposed to being a number one goaltender from the start of the season on.
"That's the challenge that Tuukka has," continued Julien. "That's why he's excited about that opportunity, and he's training hard this summer after coming back from the injury that held him back in the latter part of the season to be able to come in here at the beginning of this coming season showing people that he's very capable and has matured enough to be able to handle it."
However, as he's said repeatedly during his tenure behind Boston's bench, whomever is playing better will be in goal.
"We need to think about winning hockey games and putting the best players out there," said Julien. "The schedule is so heavy nowadays and it gets even more hectic in the last half of the season that it's so important today to have two capable goaltenders, and that's what we've got to work on."
Rask isn't the only Bruin to be working his way back to the ice, and you can count Coach Julien amongst the injured. "CJ" recently underwent hip replacement surgery, but is already up-and-around and walking easily on his new joint.
"Hopefully, by training camp everything should be a go," said Julien of his own return to the ice. "Again this is something…that needed to be done last year I should say – and then with the season going into June, summer was too short.
"So, I got it done this year, rehab is good, and I'm continuing to do that, and come September I should be able to get back on my skates."
Coach Julien plans to be present in the stands during the Bruins annual Development Camp and is excited to see the progress of Boston's top draft picks from previous seasons as well as get acquainted with this season's batch of new B's.
"Every year the development camp seems to get better and better, and not just the way it's handled, but also the players," said Julien. "I think Peter [Chiarelli] and his staff have done a great job of drafting some real good players, and you know Dougie Hamilton is one of them that I really liked last year at training camp and he's gone back to junior hockey this past season and just kind of blew the doors off of everything.
"But, you know, you're going to see guys again like Jared Knight, [Ryan] Spooner, [Alexander] "Koko" [Khokhlachev] from Windsor who had a really good camp as well. Just some of those players plus the player that we're going to be drafting in this June draft; we'll get an opportunity to get a real good look at these guys and see where they fit in or where they may fit in in the future.
"So I think it's a great thing, not only for those young players to learn about our system and how we handled things, but for a coach it certainly gives you a good idea of what you're going to be seeing at training camp."
As Julien recovers, he is also working to rest while reconnecting with his family, who have been without his presence for large parts of the last two years.
"We're going to do a little bit of everything," said Julien, who doesn't expect to have as much time to himself next summer. "I think going to Canada is one thing we have our summer home there, but at the same time quality time with the family is so huge in the summers, you know, you're family doesn't see you much during the season because it's such a hectic schedule. So it's a time to catch up and we hope to be able to do that over the course of the summer.
"Obviously, our daughter has been promised to go to Disney World so that's something we will fulfill as a family and go from there," added Julien. "But the rest I think is so important for me as well as the players, and where it's been a real tough grind in the last two years we hope to be able to be well rested, me specifically, and be ready for another challenge for the Cup next year."
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