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January 30. 2013 12:13AM

Ian Clark's On Hockey: Bruins show they have a backup plan

THE BOSTON BRUINS received the answer to an important question on Monday night.

Can goaltender Anton Khudobin be counted on to give Tuukka Rask an occasional breather between the pipes this season? Khudobin's answer was a solid "yes."

Khudobin was strong in the Bruins' 5-3 win at Carolina, making 29 saves, including some big ones with the game tied 3-3. It was only the eighth NHL appearance for the Kazakhstan native, and he got off to a shaky start by taking a delay-of-game penalty at 1 minute 40 seconds of the first period for playing the puck outside the trapezoid. But once he settled in, he played well.

"I felt comfortable after getting a couple of the shots there in the first period. Then you get into a mindset where you stop one, and then you stop the next one," Khudobin told Comcast Sportsnet. "It's always good. It was a good win, and it's always good to win."

Playing a 48-game season and letting one goaltender carry you might seem like no big deal. Most of the top goalies in the NHL will play 60 or more games in an 82-game season. Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick routinely approaches 70 games.

But this lockout-abbreviated schedule isn't just 48 games; it's 48 games crammed into a smaller time frame. This season is all about back-to-back and three-games-in-four-nights scenarios.

If you don't have a capable backup netminder, you're going to lose valuable points or be forced to grind your top goalie into dust months before playoff time.

After Khudobin made his start on Monday, Rask was back in net to face visiting New Jersey Tuesday night, with two more games coming up this week, Thursday at home against Buffalo and Saturday at Toronto.

"I thought (Khudobin) played pretty solid, and he got us the win," Bruins coach Claude Julien told NESN after Monday's win. "We're going to need both of our goaltenders to help us and get us some wins, and he did both tonight."

Of the three goals Khudobin allowed on Monday, only one might have been played better by the netminder. The first came off a tip from Jamie McBain in the slot, a play on which Khudobin had to play the pass because it looked like a shot headed far post.

The second goal was the one Khudobin probably would like back: Jeff Skinner breaking in alone and roofing a shot. If Khudobin waits it out a bit more and doesn't commit to going down too early, Skinner has no room to work with.

The third came off a bad giveaway by Chris Kelly, who lost the puck to Alexander Semin, who then fed Eric Staal streaking into the slot for a quick shot that went five-hole as Khudobin moved across the cage.

But from there, Khudobin shut the door and let the guys in front of him take care of getting the go-ahead goal and an empty-net insurance marker to lock down the game and his first win of the season.

FORMER Manchester Monarchs defenseman Slava Voynov scored his first goal of the season Monday night, and it was a big one.

Voynov's slap shot from the right point went through traffic and into the cage with 46 seconds remaining and Quick on the bench for an extra attacker. The goal tied the game and forced overtime, where the Kings won in a shootout.

Another former Monarchs defenseman, Jake Muzzin, netted his first career NHL goal on Sunday. Muzzin's goal was the capper in a 4-2 Kings win over rival Phoenix.

TWO OTHER former Monarchs are finding their way with new organizations this season, with differing degrees of success.

Fan favorite Rich Clune has carved out a role for himself with the Nashville Predators as an energy line agitator and pugilist, averaging 5:21 of ice time per game. Clune has played in five games thus far with the Predators and has three fights.

Meanwhile, it's been a tougher go for former No. 1 draft pick Thomas Hickey. The defenseman did make his NHL debut on Sunday with the New York Islanders, but it was a long time in coming. Hickey fired off three shots on net in the game and logged a respectable 12:22 of ice time.


Email staff reporter Ian Clark at iclark@unionleader.com.

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