Return of “Tuukka Time”: Tuukka Rask to see more starts this season in Boston

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Two seasons ago, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask became a sensation in Boston with his stellar play and wild antics in goal. Playing as a feisty loose cannon in goal that makes a ton of saves and wins games will make you a favorite in any city, but in Boston “Tuukka Time” took on a life of its own.

Last season, Rask figured to continue his career onward and upward as Tim Thomas was coming back after a rough season and surgery. Thomas, of course, then went on to have one of the best seasons by a goalie in years winning the Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies and leading the Bruins to the Stanley Cup all while Rask took a backseat playing in just 29 games last season.

With Thomas a year older and coming off a season that saw him play 82 games through the regular season and playoffs, “Tuukka Time” is going to make a huge comeback this season. CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty has the details from Bruins coach Claude Julien about how Tuukka Rask will help keep Tim Thomas better rested this season.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that Tuukka has to take a bit of a bigger bite this year. That’s not a secret and don’t plan on making that a secret,” said Julien. “Tim is a great goaltender, but Tim is a goaltender that understands that he can’t play 70 plus games in the regular season. He’s had a long playoffs and I think Tim is going to be just as happy as we are to have Tuukka here and paying some of his best hockey.

“I liked [Rask’s] practice today, I thought Tuukka looked sharp and he came in great shape, so hopefully he’s ready to take on that load. We’ll certainly make sure that we share [the goaltending workload]. You just want to make sure you keep your goaltenders as sharp as you can and Tim had such an outstanding year last year. We’d love to see him duplicate it, but he might be able to duplicate with some help from Tuukka by keeping him as fresh as we can.”

Thomas’ stellar season last year is one that would be awfully tough to replicate and expecting him to do that is asking the impossible. The kind of work he did last year, especially in playing a full season schedule’s worth of games when it was all said and done, is the stuff of legends. It also means you can’t bank on that happening again, especially for a guy who is 37 years-old.

Rask is the heir to the throne eventually in Boston and after a rookie season that saw him play so well, the Bruins have no reasons to worry about how he’ll handle himself in goal. While he didn’t see much action last year, he’s more than capable of getting it done. Julien already saying he’ll be calling his number more often shows their confidence in him. Rask can help the Bruins win games and, more importantly, he can make sure Boston doesn’t miss a beat while Thomas gets a breather to help him be rested for a playoff run.

Let’s just hope Bruins fans can remember their “Tuukka” call for when he does get the call.

Some big decisions looming for Colorado in goal

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So, here’s what we know about the Avs’ current netminding situation:

• Veteran goalie coach Francois Allaire was dismissed yesterday, after four years on the job. The 57-year-old is perhaps best remembered in Colorado for his work with Semyon Varlamov in ’13-14, when Varlamov backstopped the Avs to the Central Division title, finishing second in Vezina and fourth in Hart Trophy voting.

• Two names have already been tied to the vacant head coaching gig: Dwayne Roloson (per the Star Tribune) and Finnish goalie guru Jussi Parkilla (per Sportsnet). Roloson, the longtime NHL netminder, spent a few years working as a goalie consultant for the Ducks. Parkilla, 40, has worked in a number of different European leagues, including the KHL and Finland’s SM-liiga.

• Per In Goal Magazine, Roloson’s connection to the Avs gig could be predicated on it being a part-time job. This would be different from Allaire, who worked in a full-time capacity, and may go back to the club’s previous model, when Kirk McLean worked as a “consultant.”

• Last month, BSN Denver reported the Avs had already decided to protect Varlamov over Calvin Pickard for the upcoming expansion draft. But that was before Pickard backstopped Canada to silver at the recently completed World Hockey Championship. Beating out Chad Johnson for the No. 1 gig, Pickard posted a .938 save percentage and 1.49 GAA in the tourney, making 40 saves in the championship game against Sweden.

Pickard, a former second-round pick, carries a $1M cap hit and has shown well in the past, posting a .922 save percentage or better in his freshman and sophomore campaigns. He’s also only 24 years old, and seems like a legitimate candidate for Vegas.

Add it all up, and GM Joe Sakic has much to ponder this summer.

It feels like Sakic’s decision making hinges on Varlamov. The GM has repeatedly said a big reason for Colorado’s awful year was losing the Russian ‘tender to injury, and that improvement will come with Varlamov returning to health, and shouldering the starter’s workload.

That could be risky. Varlamov just turned 29 and has a history of chronic hip and groin problems. He’s also got two years left on a five-year, $29.5 million deal — one that carries a hefty $5.9M average annual cap hit.

Related: ‘There’s going to be a lot of turnover’ in Colorado

It’s ‘reasonable’ to expect Schultz and Hornqvist will play Game 7

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The Pittsburgh Penguins could have a couple of reinforcements for tomorrow’s seventh and deciding game against the Ottawa Senators at PPG Paints Arena.

Pens coach Mike Sullivan said this morning that it would be “reasonable” to expect the returns of defenseman Justin Schultz and forward Patric Hornqvist.

Schultz was injured early in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final and hasn’t played since. But he traveled with the team to Game 6, suggesting he was getting close to a return.

Hornqvist hasn’t played since Game 1, and he didn’t travel to Game 6. Instead, he stayed back in Pittsburgh to rehab, along with fellow injured teammates Chad Ruhwedel and Tom Kuhnhackl.

The Penguins lost last night by a score of 2-1, but they weren’t particularly upset with how they played.

“I thought we played a real good game,” said Sullivan. “I thought we dominated zone time. We had lots of chances. We didn’t score tonight. The puck didn’t go in the net, but if we continue to play the game that way, then I believe we’ll get the result.”

KHL contracts two teams for upcoming campaign

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Last week, KHL president Dmitry Chernyshenko said the league’s optimal size was 24 teams.

On Wednesday, he got closer to achieving that goal.

The KHL is officially down from 29 to 27 teams, following today’s announcement that Metallurg Novokuznetsk and Medvescak Zagreb have been contracted.

“We have realized that revising the number of member clubs and optimizing their staffing structure will enable us to solve the problem of spending cuts and also stimulate the labor market,” Chernysheko said last week, per the league website. “At the moment, the highly skilled players are spread too thinly among the clubs.

“It follows that the quality of play will improve, and with it the entertainment value and commercial potential of the League.”

Novokuznetsk, located in Siberia, has been in the KHL since 2008-09. The club has never made the postseason and, last year, had just eight wins in 60 games.

Medvescak was the KHL’s lone Croatian-based club, having come over from the Austrian League in 2013. After making the playoffs in its inaugural campaign, Medvescak struggled in the following three and ran into financial crisis this season. From the IIHF:

Medvescak faced some well-documented financial problems and, after a fire sale of players in the closing weeks of the campaign, suited up just 14 players in its last games.

With the team heavily reliant on sponsorship to provide a sustainable budget, the decision to return to a league closer to home.

It’s unclear what the future has in store for Novokuznetsk, though reports suggest the club could move to the VHL, Russia’s second-tier professional league.

Report: Sabres interested in Pens director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton

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New Sabres GM Jason Botterill has been on the job for less than a month, but with the draft around the corner, he’s got to start filling some holes in his front office.

Botterill, who came over from Pittsburgh, is allowed to bring former Pens colleagues of his over to Buffalo, but only if they’re given promotions by the Sabres (no lateral moves).

According to a report by Chuck Gormley, one person who could move from Pittsburgh to Buffalo is Randy Sexton, who currently serves as the Penguins’ directer of amateur scouting.

Sexton would bring plenty of experience to the Sabres’ front office, as he’s been a general manager with both the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers.

Having someone with that kind of experience could be beneficial for a rookie GM like Botterill, so the move would make a lot of sense from that point of view.

Related:

Botterill has “no problem” with Lehner as No. 1

Botterill to use Pens’ NHL-AHL relationship as model for Sabres