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Bruins keep net worth in mind

Prior to flying out of Bedford's Hanscom Field late yesterday afternoon, the Bruins went through their routine on-ice workout in preparation for facing the Blue Jackets tonight in Columbus.

"A pretty quiet day," said coach Mike Sullivan, his club resting comfortably in first place in the Eastern Conference with an 8-2-3-2 record and 21 points. "We worked on special teams -- some different things on the power play -- and the transition game."

What's to work on when you're in first place, right? The only hint of a deviation from the norm came when Sullivan was asked about his approach to goaltending this weekend. Never one to name his starter the day before a game, Sullivan also wouldn't commit to splitting the next two games between Felix Potvin and Andrew Raycroft.

"That's something I haven't decided yet," said Sullivan, sounding a bit off guard when quizzed on the goalies. "Normally, with two games in two nights [including tomorrow at home vs. Vancouver], we would split it up, but . . . I just can't say yet. And [tonight's] game in Columbus could have some bearing on that."

It could be that Sullivan is reaching, or at least contemplating, the point where he is ready to feed rookie Raycroft a bigger portion of the goaltending pie.

Some five weeks into the season, the 23-year-old Raycroft has gone an impressive 5-2-1 and posted eye-popping goals-against (1.88) and save-percentage (.936) numbers. Potvin has been a more mundane 3-2-2, .908, 2.48 -- not bad, but also not so good that it would steer Sullivan from at least the temptation to see what Raycroft might do if given, say, 12 of the next 15 starts. . . .

Attendance on Causeway Street has been somewhat disappointing in the early going, but the report from the box office is that tomorrow night's match with the front-running Canucks is close to a sellout . . . Canucks boss Brian Burke, now considered one of the game's top GMs, has yet to sign a contract extension past this season . . . Boston's top trio of Mike Knuble, Joe Thornton, and Glen Murray finished with 252 points last season. Now with 43 points in the first 15 games, they're on course for 235 points, roughly a 7 percent drop-off . . . The Blue Jackets games offer a clash-of-the-titans possibility between Bruins pugilist Sandy McCarthy and Jody Shelley (6 feet 4 inches, 225 pounds to McCarthy's 6-3, 222). Shelley, at age 27, is four years younger than McCarthy, and he rang up 249 penalty minutes last year to McCarthy's meager 81 . . . The Bruins will play on back-to-back nights five more times before the end of the calendar year. They have only four back-to-back matchups once the calendar flips to '04 . . . Note to AARP: Thornton, who hinted earlier this week at retirement, made it through the workout and is expected to be front and center tonight . . . The Blue Jackets played last night in Ottawa, which could give the Bruins an edge tonight in the fresh legs department. . . .

The Bruins were a perfect 5 for 5 in killing penalties Tuesday night vs. Edmonton, but still rate a troublesome 78.5 percent in man-short situations. That's not a number that causes much concern when a club is riding high in first place, but it's the kind of glaring soft spot that could lead to a skid . . . McCarthy flashed a couple of dazzling skating and stickhandling moves Tuesday that could lead him to a shift or two on the power play if the man-advantage begins to struggle . . . Following Vancouver's visit, the stop here by the Capitals Thursday will be the only game on Causeway Street until the Predators are here for the noon matinee the day after Thanksgiving.

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