The Boston Bruins skate through center ice during NHL hockey training camp in Boston Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
BOSTON - In a couple ways, Tim Thomas is starting over.
The Boston Bruins veteran goaltender began training camp Saturday, the first day of on-ice activity for the team, with the medical clearance to practice as much as he deemed fit in his effort to return from off-season left hip labrum surgery.
The practice also marked the beginning of Thomas' attempt to win back the starting goaltender job from Tuukka Rask, who as a rookie last year took over for Thomas late in the season.
"I've been around, it's the same game," Thomas said. "It's always the competition of a certain sort. Now I don't look at it like that in my head. I just try to live up to the level, the standard that I think I can play at."
A year ago, Thomas reported to camp at a high point. He won the 2008-09 Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender and signed a five-year contract extension in the spring of 2009. However, the 2009-10 season didn't go as well.
In 43 games, Thomas posted just a 17-18-8 record with a 2.56 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. The latter two totals were respectable, but a far cry from his .933 save percentage and 2.10 GAA, which led the NHL the year before. And they weren't enough for Thomas to prevent Rask from ascending to the No. 1 job. Thomas appeared in just three of Boston's final 12 regular-season games and did not make a playoff appearance.
The 36-year-old Thomas won't say how much the hip limited his abilities. He revealed Saturday that the May medical procedure definitely removed a "constriction" that affected him. Now he's focused on the future.
"It's kind of like a see how I go (situation)," he said. "It depends on how I feel. If for some reason you start feeling weak, then you better slow it down. But it felt pretty good today. The second hour, it felt a little more tired but I was able to practice where I didn't think I would hurt myself."
At full health and on top of his game, Thomas could combine with Rask to provide the Bruins with one of the best goaltending duos in the league. That's what coach Claude Julien is expecting from them.
"They're both great goaltenders," Julien said. "I really feel like we've got the best one-two punch in the league in that area, so we need to take advantage of it. All it takes is two guys being competitive and wanting to be their best and it will all work out."
Julien isn't counting Thomas out, though. After all, he kept his career alive by playing in a handful of leagues in a few different countries before establishing himself as a full-time NHL player. This year's training camp is just presenting him with a different type of challenge.
"I'm determined that everyday I'm going to come in and do the best that I can," he said. "It's better to break it down to something that's simple."
Notes: There was no update on the condition of centre Marc Savard. General manager Peter Chiarelli revealed Friday that the forward was suffering from post-concussion syndrome symptoms and would not be able to skate or work out for an indefinite amount of time. No. 2 overall draft pick Tyler Seguin, 18, participated in his first on-ice drill session. "The first half was a little rough. I was a little rusty," Seguin said. "It's a different change of pace, so it takes a little bit of getting used to. But the second half, I thought I fit in right there. We started having some connections on our line."