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Goaltenders doing splits

But Julien eyes one for playoffs

Tuukka Rask was flattended on this second-period goal. Tuukka Rask was flattended on this second-period goal. (Shaun Best/Reuters)
By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / March 9, 2011

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MONTREAL — With about a month to go in the regular season, goalies Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask have settled into a comfortable rhythm, albeit without a known beat, in the Bruins’ net.

Thomas is the No. 1 starter and a Hart Trophy candidate for MVP. Rask, though he struggled to win games much of this season, is again Thomas’s reliable partner, allowing the 36-year-old veteran to take a breather late in the season, as he did last night.

“He’s going to be the first one to tell you he feels good about it,’’ coach Claude Julien said when asked if Thomas responded well to his recent respites.

“He’s also a goaltender that acknowledges that his style of play is one that is more tiring than other styles, and he’ll be the first one to tell you, ‘I don’t want to play 70 games. I think it’s important for me to have someone who is there to play some games in my place.’ ’’

Thomas, noted Julien, showed signs of fatigue before and after the mid-January All-Star break.

“At one point we could sense him getting really tired,’’ said Julien, “and Tuukka took over there for a while, and you could see Timmy come back in better shape and have more energy. So it’s paid off.’’

Look for Rask and Thomas to continue their job-sharing ways, but with 16 games remaining, Julien made it clear that the time will come when he grooms one of them to be his postseason workhorse.

That smarts As the morning workout came to a close at the Bell Centre, Rask heaved his goalie stick over the glass and some 20 rows deep into the empty stands.

“Yeah, who got it as a souvenir?’’ asked Julien, when asked to comment on the incident.

Rask, said the coach, was fine.

Truth is, Rask, who will celebrate his 24th birthday tomorrow, was nailed with a shot high to the chest from one of his teammates. He no doubt was angry, not to mention in a fair amount of pain. The puck nailed him some 3-4 inches below the Adam’s apple, one of the few areas that goalies can’t always protect.

“Getting a puck in the throat is never nice,’’ said Rask, “and a little of my aggression came through [tossing the stick into the stands]. Probably an overreaction.’’

Something different Last night was career game No. 4 for rookie defenseman Matt Bartkowski, whose previous games this season all came against his hometown Penguins.

“A little different, but nice, though,’’ said Bartkowski, who grew up in suburban Pittsburgh. “Not because there’s pressure of them being the Penguins, but just because you see the same team all the time.’’

Bartkowski remains in the lineup while veteran Andrew Ference continues to recover from an undisclosed injury and fellow rookie Steve Kampfer recovers from a concussion. Veteran Shane Hnidy, signed during the Bruins’ recent six-game road trip, continues to work out with the club but likely needs another 10 days or more to be game-ready.

With Chara tossed at the end of the second period, Bartkowski logged 13:28 of ice time over 18 shifts.

No control From the odd stats department: The Bruins won 63 percent of the faceoffs, a margin (32-19) that normally speaks to controlling play. Not a normal night. Also, the Habs blocked 35 shots. Only 31 shots made it to the Montreal net, and Carey Price blocked 30 of those . . . Old friend Hal Gill played a beefy 21:57 for the speedy Habs, second only to fellow back liner P.K. Subban (25:33) . . . Max Pacioretty was awarded the night’s third star with his 10:20 in ice time.

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

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