Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask will join the Bruins for their three-game road trip. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Down forward David Backes (elbow procedure) through at least the weekend, and with leading goal-scorer David Pastrnak hit with a two-game ban for his illegal check to the head on the Rangers’ Dan Girardi, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien will take any good news he can ahead of the club’s daunting three-game road trip.
Julien and the B’s got it today, too, with the return of Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask to the practice rink.
A full participant in the skate, Julien confirmed that the club’s top goaltender will join the team for the aforementioned road trip with dates against the Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning — all three of the playoff teams from the Atlantic Division a year ago.
Whether or not Rask is well enough to start for the Bruins, however, remains up in the air.
“Getting closer and closer,” Rask, who skated with goaltending coach Bob Essensa yesterday before joining practice today, noted of his progress through the injury. “It’s good enough that I feel comfortable skating and being out there, so that’s a good sign.”
Labeled “general soreness” since the second game of the season, the presence of Rask is a positive one, although the lingering nature of the ailment is something that’s bothered the 29-year-old.
“It felt good in Winnipeg. In Toronto, it didn’t feel good. It wasn’t comfortable,” Rask admitted. “Then [we] did treatments for a couple days and felt good. Kinda on and off situation. It’s difficult to really do anything with it than take a long time and let it heal, but that’s not a real possibility.”
It’s no secret that the Bruins, who have gone winless and surrendered 18 goals against in four games played without Rask this season, need their franchise netminder back. But at what cost?
“That’s the thing we’re talking about. Risk-reward, what it is and how we should proceed,” Rask, who mentioned that he has been juggling tennis balls as an off-ice exercise in an effort to keep his hand-eye coordination up to task, said of the timing of his potential return to the lineup. “You obviously want to play, but you don’t want to force it and then be out two months.”
So the Bruins are, as expected, taking one step at a time with No. 40.
“He’s good enough to practice, and he’s good enough to at least backup right now,” Julien said.
With Rask expected back in uniform, be in the starter’s crease or on the bench as a backup, Julien confirmed that the club will send one of either Zane McIntyre or Malcolm Subban back down to the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League.
Still, it does not mean that the other will be Rask’s backup for the trip.
“We’ve gone this far, we’re going to make sure we make the right decision, not the reckless one,” said Julien.
Rask is 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals against average and .947 save percentage on the year.