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Bruins notebook

Thomas adds a cage match

He'll use his head and pack backup

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / March 12, 2009
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WILMINGTON - Irritated but not irate, Tim Thomas figures he'll probably pack a pair of his cage-like helmets for the road from now on, even though it's unlikely he'll take another smacking like the one Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio.

"The mask's not made to withstand those things," said the Bruins' No. 1 goaltender, back at work yesterday following the 2-0 loss to the Blue Jackets. "It's made to withstand pucks."

Thomas, behind his net to play a puck, was hit by a hard-charging Jiri Novotny, a 6-foot-3-inch Czech center in his second year with the Jackets. The slam not only startled the 34-year-old Thomas, it broke both ends of the strap holding his protective chin cup in place, leading to a stop in game action while equipment manager Mark Dumas fiddled with an on-the-fly repair in the dressing room.

As the repair job lingered, the on-ice officials ordered Thomas back to the net, forcing him to wear Manny Fernandez's helmet, a much different model. The Thomas model covers the face with a cage, much like the one worn for years by Dominik Hasek and somewhat akin to a baseball catcher's mask. The Fernandez model is the more conventional mask variety worn by the majority of NHL goalies.

"It's a mask, and I don't wear a mask," said Thomas. "They're hot, you can't hear, and you can't breathe . . . otherwise, they're OK."

In the six-plus minutes that Thomas was forced to wear his partner's mask, the Blue Jackets struck for what proved to be the winning goal, Raffi Torres nailing a sharp shot to the far side as he raced into the right faceoff circle.

Had he been wearing his own helmet/cage, Thomas figures, he would have had a better shot at making the stop. Also, had he been wearing Fernandez's tighter-fitting mask when Novotny nailed him behind the net, the goalie they call "Tank" figures he would have come out of the wreck with far worse than the snapped strap.

"In my opinion, with the mask, I would have been concussed," said Thomas. "He hit me pretty good, kind of with his shoulder and helmet. The replay's worth watching. It's quite a hit . . . a hell of a hit, and not necessarily dirty, either. I mean, he didn't go out of his way to get me, but he didn't let up either."

Play continued after the hit and none of the Bruins took Novotny to task. Not only was the hit atypical, so was the lack of response from the goalie's teammates.

"Yeah," said club vice president Cam Neely, when asked if he were surprised by the lack of retaliation, his clenched teeth causing his jaw to bulge as he stood inside Ristuccia Arena after yesterday's workout. "No comment."

Hard-rock winger Milan Lucic, one of those who would be expected to defend the goalie, said he didn't see what happened on the play.

"I didn't see an arm go up," he said, noting that one of the referees didn't call a penalty. "I was looking up ice, and it's the third period and you're down, 1-0. If you take an instigating penalty there, you're in the penalty box for a while . . . I think that's a case where you have to depend on the officials. It's late in the game and you have to be smart about things."

The score was actually deadlocked, 0-0, at the time, but Lucic's point is valid. Tight games, especially for a club fighting to score goals and post wins, often call for restraint. Had someone on the Bruins tuned up Novotny, it likely would have led to a Columbus power play. Shortly thereafter, Zdeno Chara was sent off for a marginal high stick, which in turn led to Torres's goal.

Krejci, Kessel sit out
David Krejci and Phil Kessel were excused from the one-hour workout. Both already had left the rink, according to a member of the club's media relations staff, by the time the dressing room was opening to media.

Julien would not elaborate on why Krejci and Kessel did not practice but said he is "hopeful" that they will be in the lineup tonight when the Senators visit Causeway Street. Julien made it sound as if both were injured, but in keeping with his policy, he would not specify. Kessel missed the final 6:30 of the second period in Columbus after being walloped by Jan Hejda.

"They were not able to go on the ice," said Julien, when asked if the players were granted a "maintenance" day, the term he uses when he decides to rest a player. "We gave them a day to get ready, and we're hoping to have them both in the lineup - we'll see."

Yelle back at practice
Stephane Yelle, absent the last two games after taking an awkward fall into the boards Saturday, made it through the full workout. However, he remains questionable for tonight. "They cleared me for practice," said Yelle, noting that he feels better. Asked if the doctors cleared him for contact, he added, "I tried to stay away from that today." . . . Chara, when asked his opinion of the penalty that led to Torres's goal, shrugged and said, "Weak." . . . Julien does not believe his club lacks net presence in the offensive end. "We're there," he said. "The biggest thing for us is to find the loose pucks and cash them in." Julien also mentioned how difficult it is to get pucks on net from the points - a product of clubs being so efficient at blocking shots . . . Former Bruins center and coach Steve Kasper watched some of the workout. Kasper is the agent for Steve Montador . . . Goalie coach Bob Essensa spent extra time on the ice at the end of the workout with Fernandez, appearing to talk technique with the struggling 'tender (0-3-2 in his last five starts) . . . Krejci was shut out again in Columbus, and is 2-3 -5 in his last 15 games. Kessel has been blanked in 12 of the last 15 (3-1 -4) . . . The Bruins went 39 games before being shut out, 1-0, by the Wild Jan. 6. The have now been blanked in four of their last 29 games . . . The Bruins are 1 for 13 on the power play in their last four games . . . They've allowed at least one power-play goal in six straight games, killing only 13 of 21 advantages.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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