Bruins notebook

Busy stretch will test their netminding depth

Email|Print| Text size + By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / November 29, 2007

WILMINGTON - For the next 2 1/2 weeks, the Bruins will live their version of hockey's two-minute scheduling drill, playing 10 games in 17 days. The uptempo pace of pass-and-shoot begins with tonight's encounter with the Panthers in Sunrise, Fla.

"It's important that the guys get their rest and proper nutrition," noted coach Claude Julien, following his squad's final workout at Ristuccia Arena before they boarded an afternoon charter flight to the sunny South. "We're going to be pretty busy."

Question is, how will that workload be split between goaltenders Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask? Or will general manager Peter Chiarelli follow through with his thought last week, when he said he might add a veteran goalie to the mix? If so, Rask, the winner Monday night in Philadelphia, could return to Providence (AHL) for a season of shaping his North American pro game.

The GM said Tuesday that injured netminder Manny Fernandez likely would begin full workouts again yesterday, but when the pucks were dumped out of the pail at 11:30 a.m., the 33-year-old Fernandez was nowhere to be seen.

"He has some back issues," said Julien, who initially noted that the goalie's back had to be "straightened." Julien added, "I'm not sure what the [medical] terms are, but he needs some therapy and he needs to get stronger. We were expecting to see [him practice] today."

Attempting to return from a lingering knee injury, Fernandez last week practiced for the first time in nearly a month, only to have his back force him out of action after a half-hour of work. The diagnosis: spasms. Julien remained vague about the goalie's condition, or his chance to return to a regular practice schedule.

Walking through the dressing room before Julien met with the media, Fernandez flashed a thumbs-up sign to a reporter and said, "Good," as he made his way out of the shower. Asked if he got in a workout, he shook his head and said, "No, it will be a while."

Fernandez has not seen game action since Oct. 22. Based on what Julien said, it sounds as if he must build up what is commonly referred to as "core strength," and add strength and flexibility to abdominal and back muscles.

Meanwhile, Julien said Rask is "proving that he can hold his own." But the last goal scored by the Flyers, a clear slapper off the wing to Rask's short (glove) side, was a shot the coach felt Rask should have pocketed.

"So, he's not perfect," said Julien, who has played the 20-year-old Rask in only two games thus far. "The Toronto game, he was outstanding. In Philly, he was good."

Alberts OK to play

Andrew Alberts, kneeling and defenseless when his head was hammered into the boards Monday night by Flyers winger Scott Hartnell, was back on the ice for the first time since the second period at Wachovia Center.

"I feel fine, a lot better," said Alberts, still with a red mark close to his left temple. "I had a headache most of the day [Tuesday], and that's better."

The 6-foot-5-inch Alberts, who is expected to suit up tonight, said he felt fortunate that the hit didn't cause him greater injury.

"When I was on the ice, my face and neck both went numb," said Alberts. "I'm lucky it wasn't much worse. I mean, look at [Patrice Bergeron] - he gets hit and he could be out the whole year. I feel lucky not to have a concussion, or something worse."

Thomas, his dressing spot next to Alberts, steadfastly believes Hartnell could have pulled up, electing not to pulverize Alberts while the defenseman was kneeling and sliding toward the boards.

"You could count one-one thousand, two-one thousand . . . and then he hit him," said Thomas. "He could have stopped, in my opinion."

The videotape, said Thomas, clearly shows the puck is a few feet away from Alberts, who dropped to his knees to stop a dump-in by a Flyers blue liner.

"Nothing [Alberts] could do there except protect himself," said Thomas. "Other than maybe spear the guy, but I don't think he had time to do that."

Lucic makes trip

Milan Lucic, who returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since taking a Bryan Berard shoulder to the head Friday, made it through the full practice. "I really haven't had any symptoms," said the rookie winger, noting that his neck pain and memory loss - his initial symptoms - have abated . . . Lucic also made the flight to Florida and is eligible to play tonight . . . Chiarelli said Tuesday that injured blue liner Andrew Ference, who wrenched a knee Nov. 15, should need no more than two weeks before he returns . . . Julien said he is not sure whether Bergeron, a month-plus after suffering a Grade 3 concussion, is able to drive a car. "But he came to our last [home] game, so he's feeling better. Yet he's not even close to coming back." . . . His eyes lighting up, Petteri Nokelainen said his knee woes have cleared up "100 percent." The former Islander lost large parts of the last two seasons because of the troublesome knee. "Absolutely no trouble," said Nokelainen, obtained in a preseason swap for Ben Walter. "'I can jump. I can lift weights. It helps your head to go out there and not have to worry about anything you do."

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