Tuukka Rask’s return highlights newsworthy practice
“Tuukka Rask is back, so the Bruins’ season is over.” — This is what some Rask detractors likely thought when the veteran goalie returned to practice on Tuesday after attending to a family matter during the weekend.
Sure, Rask’s early season troubles — along with the secondary scoring issues — are one of the few sore spots in Boston’s first 17 games. He is far from his 2014 Vezina form with his 4-4-0 mark, .901 save percentage and 3.05 goals against average.
Rask, the first Bruin to touch the Warrior Ice Arena sheet on Tuesday, would tell you that he needs to improve at his day job. But the Finn has another important gig: being a family man. Though he wasn’t too specific about details, a thankful Rask addressed the media and gave a thumbs up to the Bruins organization and others who supported him during his absence.
“First and foremost, I want to thank all the people who were sending messages and contacted me and supported me. Second of all, I want to thank the Boston Bruins for giving me the time off and attend to my family. I’ve never been more proud to be a part of this family — the Boston Bruins. We talk about it a lot that this [team] is a family and we are a family and we take care of each other when times are tough,” Rask said.
“That being said, I have a job, and my job is to be a goalie for the Boston Bruins, and I also have another job title and that’s a family man. This was a time deep inside my heart where I felt I needed to take time with my family and make things right, so I’m happy to be back here and focus on my job. That took three days. I’m back here. I’m back to work and I’m ready to battle with these guys.”
Rask, who last appeared in relief during Boston’s 8-5 loss to the Vancouver Canucks last Thursday, will back up the red-hot Jaroslav Halak (6-1-2, 1.77 GAA, .945 SV%) Wednesday night in Colorado to begin a three-game-in-four-night road trip. He’ll likely start one half of the back-to-back in Dallas or Arizona.
He’s ready to return and stop the puck on a moment’s notice. But Rask is also appreciative of the finer things in life, like family.
“At the end of the day I realize that hockey is a short career, but your life is much longer than that,” Rask said. “So, I appreciate that I got the privacy and the time that I needed, and I’m ready to move on.”
Jakub Zboril recalled
2015 first round pick Jakub Zboril took time to run an errand from Providence to Boston during his day off on Monday. Little did he know, he would make another trip up I-95 just hours later.
“Yesterday, I was driving up to Boston dropping off my girlfriend to the airport,” Zboril said about the timing of his promotion. “I came back to my apartment in Providence and all of the sudden I get called up and I say ‘oh wow.’ So I just packed my stuff and I got here last night, practiced today and now I’m going on the trip.”
Zboril, who posted four points in 13 games with the P-Bruins, will start the trip as an extra defenseman following Brandon Carlo’s recent upper-body injury. The Czech-born blueliner is finding comfort in his professional development despite some hiccups during his first two years in Providence.
Bruce Cassidy will likely stick with the same six defensemen — Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, Torey Krug, John Moore, Jeremy Lauzon and Steven Kampfer — from Sunday’s 4-1 win over Vegas. But the third-year Bruins coach isn’t ruling out a potential NHL debut for Zboril either in Colorado or the weekend slate.
“He moves the puck well. He’s like a lot of young guys where he’s had some good games and [other] games where he needs to be better,” Cassidy said about Zboril.
“We brought him up because Carlo will miss at least Wednesday so on the trip we want to make sure he’s there in case there’s a sickness or an injury — or the rest of the guys can’t go on the weekend — so he’ll come with us. We’ll probably stick with the same six [defensemen] that played Sunday against Vegas. He’s the seventh [defenseman] right now, but that can change. Maybe he’ll get in on the weekend.”
Injury updates, who’s going on the trip and who’s staying home
Both Kevan Miller (upper body) and Charlie McAvoy (concussion) skated before Tuesday’s practice in Brighton. Neither will play during the next three games, but Miller will accompany the team on the trip. McAvoy and Carlo won’t be traveling from Hanscom Air Force base on Tuesday but could join the team later in the four-game road swing that also includes a stop in Detroit the day before Thanksgiving.
Fellow defenseman Urho Vaakaninen (concussion) donned a red no-contact jersey at practice. The 2017 first rounder, who last appeared during the Bruins’ 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 23, could join the team prior to the Red Wings tilt in the Motor City a week from Wednesday.