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Bruins notebook

Rask is getting into it

Julien likes his play and attitude

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / October 28, 2009

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WILMINGTON - Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask, 1-1-1 with just about four weeks ticked off the NHL schedule, has been fed a slow but steady diet of play thus far. As planned, he is filling the role of rookie understudy to Tim Thomas, who is 4-3-0 after his Vezina Trophy efforts of last season.

“From two years ago till now, I’d say he’s matured in his role,’’ said coach Claude Julien, impressed with Rask’s most recent outing, a 4-3 shootout loss in Philadelphia Thursday night. “He played extremely well for us against a pretty good hockey club.’’

What particularly caught Julien’s eye was Rask’s reaction after losing in Philadelphia, giving up the shootout-winning goal to Claude Giroux.

“He was livid,’’ said a smiling Julien, who prefers to see his goalies shaken and stirred in the right circumstances. “You don’t mind seeing that. He’s built some character along the way.’’

The 6-foot-2-inch Rask also is no longer the “bone rack’’ - general manager Peter Chiarelli’s term - that he was when selected 21st overall in the 2005 draft by the Maple Leafs (he was dealt a year later to Boston for Andrew Raycroft). He tips the scales these days around 180 pounds, some 15 heavier than he was when drafted.

“I’ve added about 10 pounds, and I’ve got another 10 to go; 190 should be about right for me, I think,’’ said Rask following the Bruins’ one-hour workout yesterday morning. “I’m feeling good.’’

Now in his third season in North America, Rask has adapted better to the American menu, which typically doesn’t include reindeer and accompanying cranberry sauce, a regular dish when he is back home in Tampere, Finland.

“The thing I notice most here is the size of portions when I go out to eat - everything is huge,’’ said Rask, a regular visitor to the North End. “It’s much smaller in Finland. When I go home now, it’s like I have to order two meals, because I’m so used to everything being so big here.’’

With the Bruins facing three games over the next four days, including tomorrow’s match against the Devils at the Garden, Rask is almost certain to get a start. Given the workload and opponents, he’ll probably draw the Oilers in Saturday’s matinee on Causeway Street.

Work to do
Their record respectable of late (2-0-1) after a lackluster start, the Bruins still need to get their power-play and penalty-killing units back to more dignified levels.

As of yesterday, the Boston power play had connected on only 6 of 40 chances (15 percent), while the PK unit had failed 24.4 percent of the time, allowing 10 goals in 41 shorthanded situations. The power play ranked 27th, the penalty kill 23d.

“You’re missing a good player in [Marc ] Savard,’’ noted Julien, underscoring how the man-advantage often lives and dies around Savard’s deft offensive skills.

Julien added that his club has done a much better job on the PK over the last three games. The Bruins froze out the man-advantage against Nashville, Philadelphia, and Ottawa.

Not much bang
Boston’s hitting game, especially since the forced absence of Milan Lucic (surgery to repair fractured finger), has been particularly anemic to start the season.

Zdeno Chara has led the way thus far with 20 hits in 10 games, which as of yesterday had Big Z tied for 64th overall with nine other NHLers. The league leader: the Rangers’ Ryan Callahan with 52 smacks in 12 games. Lucic had connected for 19 hits in six games before moving to the DL.

Of everyone who has donned the Spoke-B this season, only Savard hasn’t recorded a single hit. The crafty pivot registered 25 smacks in 82 games last season. Leading the way in 2008-09: Lucic (262), Chara (169), and the since-departed Aaron Ward (151). Ward already has 20 hits this season with the Hurricanes. Ex-Bruin Andrew Alberts leads the North Carolina roster with 33 hits.

Draw it up
Patrice Bergeron, averaging slightly more than 10 faceoff victories per game, as of yesterday ranked 17th overall with a 55.8 percent success rate at the dot. San Jose’s Scott Nichol (62.6 percent) led the charts for players with 10 games or more . . . Prince of Passion Cam Neely was a back-row-of-the-bleachers observer inside the ever-frosty Ristuccia rink. Neely was joined by Chiarelli, who made it to the top row despite the need to fuss with crutches. Chiarelli tore cartilage in his right knee over the summer (no, not wrestling with Wade Arnott, agent for Phil Kessel) and had it cleaned Monday with an arthroscopic procedure. The GM’s salary will not come off the club’s salary cap as an injury exemption.

Legs under him
Marco Sturm says he is back feeling 100 percent after missing much of last season due to knee surgery. “Sometimes in games, it takes me 5-10 minutes to get it going,’’ said the speedy, versatile winger, who has switched back and forth at left and right wing this season. “But I’ve talked to the trainers, and I guess it is normal.’’ . . . The Devils, here tomorrow night, will be followed in by a Saturday visit from the Oilers, under the watch this season of Pat Quinn, one of the few old-world coaches who still prefers a game of trading chances, rather than reducing it to stifling defensive play and attacking almost solely on defense-generated opportunity. The Bruins will visit the Rangers Sunday afternoon in Manhattan, where the Blueshirts are off to a sizzling 8-3-1 start.

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

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