COLUMBUS – Anton Khudobin submitted his strongest bid to serve as Tuukka Rask’s No.2 on Thursday, stopping all 11 shots he saw against Columbus in the Bruins’ 2-1 preseason win.
The two-time Bruin started the night at Nationwide Arena and looked sharp until he was replaced by Malcolm Subban at 9:14 of the second period. Khudobin made technically textbook stops, but he also relied on his quickness to keep his net clear of pucks. The Blue Jackets dressed most of the roster that will play against the Bruins for real next Thursday in the regular-season opener.
Rask is likely to start the preseason finale against Philadelphia on Saturday. The Bruins could use some stability behind Rask. Neither Jonas Gustavsson nor Niklas Svedberg was dependable when Rask needed rest. Khudobin, who spent most of last season in the AHL, should be able to spell Rask and perhaps even push for starts for stretches of the season. Khudobin’s presence will also allow Subban to continue developing in Providence and possibly approach the ceiling expected of a former first-round pick.
The Bruins, up 1-0 when Khudobin left the game, took a 2-0 lead at 3:53 of the third. Jake DeBrusk charged down the right side and flipped a backhander to Seth Griffith for a net-front tap-in. Brandon Saad answered by turning Danton Heinen around and snapping a wrister through Subban’s pads at 6:49.
The Bruins scored the only goal of the first period. The Jackets killed off a Boone Jenner boarding penalty. But four seconds after Jenner stepped out of the box, the Bruins scored an even-strength goal at 2:34. Colin Miller hammered a slap shot that Matt Beleskey, while cutting through the high slot, deflected past Sergei Bobrovsky. The Columbus goalie was also screened by Danton Heinen.
Brandon Carlo played stout defense throughout the game, but especially in the first period. The 19-year-old foiled two offensive rushes with solid stickwork. Carlo will be best served starting his first full pro season in Providence. But Carlo’s active stick, mobility, and hockey sense will not keep him in the AHL for long.