Tim Thomas is the frontrunner to win the Vezina Trophy. He should have a legitimate shot at the Hart Trophy. And he's clearly the Bruins goalie of the present.

But as the B's begin their final 32 games of the regular season following the All-Star break, the forgotten man in the goalie stable, Tuukka Rask, can still have an impact on this season.

With just seven points separating the third-place Bruins from their opponent tonight, the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes, in the Eastern Conference standings, a mere two or three games can mean the difference between opening Round 1 of the playoffs at home, on the road or (gulp) in front of the television.

Given the fact that Thomas has operated best in his career when he gets a decent amount of rest — he played 54 games in his Vezina-winning season of 2008-09 — Rask will get his opportunities to turn around a sophomore season that has been plagued by bad luck more than anything.

"We know that and everybody knows that," said Rask yesterday, looking refreshed after spending a couple of days in the Bahamas over the break, at Ristuccia Arena. "And (Thomas) doesn't want to play that much. That one stretch where he played seven or eight games straight (in December), he was getting a little tired. It's good to know that you're going to get those games and you're not going to be sitting on the bench for 30 games in a row."

Rask's save percentage is .923, not so far off his .931 mark last year when he won the starting job away from a struggling and ultimately injured Thomas. But Rask's goals-against average has swelled from 1.97 to 2.57 and, most importantly, he hasn't gotten the results. While Thomas has a record of 24-5-6, Rask is 4-10-1.

While a timely save here and there would have improved his record, Rask has rarely been the beneficiary of the B's offensive resurgence. Of the 11 times he's lost (10 in regulation, one in a shootout), his teammates have managed just 18 goals.