Tim Thomas says he is 'ahead of schedule' after May 21 hip surgery

timthomasprogress.jpgWhile he was usurped by Finnish sensation Tuukka Rask, I think that Tim Thomas was better during the 2009-10 season than most people gave him credit for. Or, perhaps more precisely, he wasn’t quite as bad as people thought.

His save percentage was down to 91.5 last season, but that’s nicely above 90 percent, generally accepted as the “Mendoza line” for goalies. His level of play just fell distinctly short of his Vezina-worthy 93.3 mark and Rask’s 93.1 pace.

Still, at $5 million and at the age of 36, it’s reasonable to wonder if Thomas already played his best hockey. Then again, maybe he was just worn out. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa reports that Thomas is “ahead of schedule” in the rehab process after undergoing hip surgery on May 21.

“It’s going really well,” Thomas said. “It’s actually gone exceptionally well, right from the start, which has been a good thing. We’re ramping it up and ramping up the workouts. I think everything would be considered right on track, if not a little bit ahead.”

Next Friday will mark 12 weeks since the procedure. Doctors have told him not to butterfly until the 12-week point. Thomas, however, doesn’t usually start skating until September, so he might not hit the ice at all this month. Thomas said he’ll be ready for the start of training camp.

* Thomas wasn’t willing to note the injury as a reason why his play slipped last year. “You can’t say. Everybody’s got injuries all the time,” Thomas said. “There’s no use even speculating. I can do it for myself. But definitely publicly, I wouldn’t even want to speculate.”

Thomas also had some other interesting things to say in that article.

Contrary to many reports, Thomas said that he never waived his no-trade clause during the NHL Entry Draft. He said “being at least somewhat in the inner loop, you realize that 75 percent of what’s being written is wrong.” Thomas also commented on this summer’s bone-dry goalie market … one that, let’s face it, he’s very lucky he avoided by a year.

While Thomas will likely be the target of trade rumors for the three years remaining on his questionable contract, let’s not forget that the NHL has seen a large quantity of “one-year wonders” in net. If Rask falters, the Bruins will need Thomas to match (or at least approach) his 07-08 form. Getting healthy will improve his – and Boston’s – chances considerably.

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    Ristolainen suspended three games for hit that concussed Guentzel

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    Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has been suspended three games for interfering with Pens forward Jake Guentzel, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Thursday.

    Ristolainen was given a five-minute interference major and game misconduct for the hit in Tuesday night’s tilt, which left Guentzel bloodied and, as we later learned, with a concussion.

    Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed the diagnosis in his postgame presser.

    Ristolainen, 22, didn’t have any prior history with the DoPS, which has yet to release a video explanation for the punishment. It could be argued that Guentzel was in a prone position, and that Ristolainen took advantage of it.

    “I thought it was bad,” Penguins forward Chris Kunitz said of the hit, per the Buffalo News. “The puck doesn’t get to him. He’s looking to get the puck to get into the play, and the guy holds up a second and then he still goes through him.”

    As a result of today’s announcement, Ristolainen will now sit out Buffalo’s game on Saturday against Toronto, Mar. 27 against Florida and Mar. 28 against Columbus. He’ll be eligible to return on Sunday, Apr. 2, when the Sabres take on the Isles.

    Ristolainen will also forfeit $90,000 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

    Pre-game reading: Does the NHL’s playoff format need fixing?

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    — Up top, Brian Boucher and Mike Milbury have their say on NHL participation in the Olympics, something Gary Bettman continues to put into doubt.

    — At least fans can still be certain there will be playoff hockey. That being said, does the NHL’s format need fixing? Because as it stands right now, at least one of Washington, Pittsburgh, or Columbus is guaranteed to be gone after the first round, and only one of those three can survive past the second round. The Capitals, Penguins, and Blue Jackets are first, second, and third in the overall standings, respectively. Hence, the debate. (The Washington Post)

    — The Caps take on the Blue Jackets tonight in D.C., and Barry Trotz is looking forward to the fight for playoff positioning. The Caps, you’ll recall, coasted to first place in the Metro Division last season. But they can’t afford to coast now. “Having gone both routes now, I prefer this,” Trotz said. “Because it’s more meaningful. … It was in our hands too early last year, and I think it took a little edge off. You get too comfortable for too long, you get too soft.” (Washington Post)

    — Don’t expect the NBA’s controversial practice of resting star players to become a common problem for the NHL. Said Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty: “I just think hockey’s a different kind of animal where I don’t think guys would want to do it. Guys are stubborn enough to probably fight it if they were asked and that’s how I would see that going down.” (Canadian Press)

    — Why Dave Hakstol won’t be fired, by Flyers beat reporter Dave Isaac, who writes: “It took multiple pleas to woo Hakstol from a much more comfortable college job at the University of North Dakota. To fire Hakstol this early would be an admission from Hextall that this part of his grand plan — hiring the coach that he thought would grow with the roster — was wrong.” (Courier-Post)

    William Nylander may sometimes get overshadowed in Toronto by fellow Maple Leafs rookies Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. But with 20 goals in 70 games, what Nylander has done is still very impressive. (The Hockey News)

    Enjoy the games!

    Bowling Green goalie Nell leaves school, signs with Rangers

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    The Blueshirts added to their goaltending depth on Thursday, signing Bowling Green junior Chris Nell to an entry-level contract.

    Nell, 22, just wrapped his junior campaign at Bowling Green, going 17-14-2 with a 2.15 GAA and .916 save percentage. This year, he became the school’s all-time leader in career shutouts, this after a terrific sophomore campaign in which he finished with a sparking 1.31 GAA and .930 save percentage.

    An undrafted free agent, Nell now joins an organization with several young netminders in the mix. Mackenzie Skapski, a 2013 draftee, made his NHL debut two years ago but has struggled this season, splitting time between AHL Hartford and ECHL Greenville. Brandon Halverson, a second-rounder in ’14, has also split time between Hartford and Greenville, and was recently recalled to New York on an emergency basis.

    New York has also drafted Russian netminder Igor Shesterkin (fourth round, ’14), Slovak Adam Huska (seventh round, ’15) and UMass-Lowell product Tyler Wall (sixth round, ’16).

     

    On verge of missing playoffs, Red Wings aim to keep winning culture

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    The Detroit Red Wings have no intention of tearing their roster down and undertaking a painful rebuild, a la the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Why not, you ask?

    Because even though the Wings are going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, and even though their leading scorer (Henrik Zetterberg) is 36 years old, they don’t want to lose the culture that made them so successful over the past quarter century.

    “There are organizations where they have lost culture,” said head coach Jeff Blashill, per the Detroit Free Press. “They have missed the playoffs, and they miss it 10 straight years. We don’t want to be in this position again. This isn’t OK. That is the approach we are taking every day.”

    We have heard other teams say similar things. For example, the Vancouver Canucks. (Which won’t make Wings fans feel great to hear.)

    While there’s nothing wrong with trying to maintain a winning culture, the biggest challenge the Wings have is a lack of talent — particularly on the back end.

    That’s up to GM Ken Holland to solve, and solve relatively quickly, given his lack of appetite for a lengthy rebuild.

    “We’re going to continue to try and be competitive, we’re going to continue to try and make the playoffs and our ultimate goal is to eventually be a Cup contender,” Holland said a few months ago.

    “To me, rebuild means eight to 10 years, and there are teams that have made the playoffs one year in 10 while rebuilding.”

    Related: It’s going to be a very different draft for the Red Wings