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Tim Thomas continues to prove nay-sayers wrong with stellar play

Tim Thomas continues to star in his own motion picture called Ground Hog Day 3.

It's the one where he shows up at training camp for three straight years and is designated the backup goaltender. Only to end up playing the bulk of the games.

"I just took the attitude that if you play well enough, you'll get your playing time," the Bruins goalie told The Canadian Press from Boston on Wednesday.

In 2005-06, Andrew Raycroft started the season as the Bruins' No. 1 man but Thomas ends the season with more games played.

Last season Thomas arrived at camp with Hannu Toivonen being projected as the possible No. 1 goalie. Thomas proceeded to win 30 games on a mediocre team and appear in 66 games.

This summer Thomas got the news that the Bruins acquired Manny Fernandez to be their No. 1 goalie.

But when the Toronto Maple Leafs face the Bruins in Boston on Thursday night, it will be Thomas starting his ninth straight game.

"I just take the same attitude every year I guess," said the soft-spoken Thomas. "If anything I had more motivation to work harder this summer knowing that it was going to be an even tougher challenge to earn your playing time."

Fernandez had a shaky start, going 2-2-0 with a 3.93 goals-against average and .832 save percentage, before re-injuring his left knee Oct. 30. He's inching closer to a return. But he might have to wait his turn.

Thomas, 33, is top five in the NHL with both a 1.65 GAA and .950 save percentage - sparkling numbers to say the least.

"It's been really helpful to me the pride that the team has taken in playing well defensively," said Thomas, who was quick to credit his teammates. "I can tell that the D and the forwards are trying really hard all the time in the defensive zone and that just gives me more motivation to keep the puck out when I have to."

A healthy Fernandez is what Thomas hopes to see. He feels the good NHL teams have a solid 1-2 punch in goal and he wants Fernandez to be part of that.

"There's very few exceptions where you can just ride one goalie," said Thomas. "And if they do, I think they're going to get tired at some point. ...

"I want whoever I'm playing with to be playing well, too. I just want to play the best I can when I get the chance to."

Thomas, for his NHL career, has a 2.85 GAA and .914 save percentage in 120 games, numbers that would suggest a No. 1 goalie. But many are the pundits around the league who think of him as a backup.

"Anybody that says that hasn't taken a look at any of the facts from my entire career," said Thomas, a standout at the University of Vermont. "I've never been a backup at any level. So I've never paid too much attention to the people that have said that.

"I just took the attitude that they can say what they say and I'll just keep playing the best that I can."

The Flint, Mich., native paid his dues in the AHL and in Finland before finally getting to appear in his first NHL game at the age of 28 in 2002. He could have easily given up the dream.

"I always had confidence in myself that I could do it," said Thomas. "I think that's the most important thing to keep. You have to keep working hard and hope that you'll get your chance. It won't work for everybody. Some people no matter how hard you work it's never going to be enough.

"But in my case, it certainly worked out that way."


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