Friday, January 11, 2013
Khudobin ready for bigger role
By James Murphy
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The departure of Tim Thomas means that Tuukka Rask will once again be a starter, as he was in 2009-10.
But it also means that for now, Russian goaltender Anton Khudobin takes over the backup role that Rask held for most of the last two seasons.
Khudobin joined his teammates on the ice at Ristuccia Arena for a captain's practice Friday morning, and he is embracing the role he finds himself in. Last season he came into camp knowing that unless Rask got hurt, he would be sent back to Providence. But thanks to Rask's elevation into the top spot on the depth chart, the 26-year old Khudobin finds himself as the No.2 and the only other netminder in this minicamp of six days that begins Sunday.
"There's always pressure at this position," said Khudobin, who was 21-19-3 with a 2.61 GAA and .919 save percentage in Providence last season. "Yes I am (the) second goalie now but you never know what happens so you prepare as number one even if you come in with no chance. I know my role now and will still prepare as number one because I need to be ready for whatever. Tuukka is (the) man now and I am fine with that but always be prepared."
While he wants to be a starter, Khudobin is happy to be backing up Rask.
"He's a great guy and I got to know him last year well," Khudobin said. "He's a great goalie too and I learn a lot from him, so (it's) good to work wiith him."
Khudobin was acquired from the Bruins in 2011 from the Minnesota Wild for Providence Bruins defenseman Jeff Penner and the restricted free agent rights to forward Mikko Lehtonen. Khudobin has seen NHL action as a Bruin only once, after just six NHL games with the Wild during his stint in their organization. He made the best of his one opportunity with Boston last season in a 45-save performance and 3-1 Bruins win at Ottawa on April 5. Khudobin feels that was a valuable experience, and he will apply what he learned in camp and this season.
"I get a taste of it and that was good for me," the 2004 seventh round pick said. "It was great experience and I learn from it. Now I take that and use (it) this season."
Khudobin is also hoping that despite going 6-14-4 with a 2.96 GAA and .912 save percentage with Atlant Moscow Oblast in the KHL during the lockout, he will be in game shape and ready for the shortened 48-game season.
"It was different hockey for sure and a different style," Khudobin said. "But it's my homeland so I knew what to expect. I played lots of games there and work as hard as I can to prepare for over here and a season."