Something to prove

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

WILMINGTON, MA. -- Tuukka Rask would love to prove the Maple Leafs wrong for trading him away.

The highly coveted goaltending prospect claims he's not bitter with Toronto management for shipping him to the Boston Bruins organization 15 months ago in a deal that netted the Leafs goalie Andrew Raycroft.

Yet mention the prospect of facing those same Leafs this afternoon in pre-season action at the TD Banknorth Garden, and a sparkle quickly comes to the eyes of the young Finnish stringbean.

"It would be fun," Rask, 20, said yesterday. "It's a chance to show everyone (with the Leafs) that it would have been worth it to have me on their team."

Bruins coach Claude Julien has opted to dress both Rask and Tim Thomas against the Leafs. And if the Bruins first two pre-season games serve as a blue print, Julien will use both his goaltenders, meaning Rask will take on the Leafs for the first time since joining the Bruins organization on June 24, 2006.

"(The trade) was a little bit of a surprise at first," said Rask, selected 21st overall by the Leafs in the 2005 entry draft. "I remember it was the middle of the night when general manager (John Ferguson) phoned me to tell me about it and to wish me luck.

"Looking back, it wasn't that big of a thing. I hadn't played any games for the Toronto organization and I didn't really know too many of the guys."

Just five months prior to the swap, Rask and fellow Leafs prospect Justin Pogge had been two of the biggest stars at the 2006 world junior championship. Rask was named the tournament's top goalie while Pogge backstopped Canada to the gold medal.

"I remember saying hello to Justin there and wishing him luck," Rask recalled. "I thought we were going to be teammates. But then I realized how much depth the Leafs had in goal. Ed Belfour, Mikael Tellqvist and J-S Aubin were all under contract and (Pogge) signed with them right after the tournament, so I realized I would have been the fifth goalie there."

When the Leafs attempted to get Rask to come to North America, he balked.

"I thought it was better for me in Finland because I knew I could play 40 games in the Elite League there. I didn't even consider coming over. Maybe that's why I was traded."

Rask, who spent a second consecutive season in Finland last year, insists he is now here to stay, either with the Bruins or their AHL farm club in Providence. He saw his first NHL action during an exhibition game against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night, allowing a pair of goals in about 30 minutes of action.

"I just want to be so good that the coach has to put me in net," he said. "That's my goal."


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