The discouraging signs continue to linger around the health of Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask as he was absent from Thursday’s morning skate and will be replaced by Dan Vladar as the backup goaltender for tonight’s game vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins. The good news is that Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy still has Rask penciled in for this weekend’s road game against the Washington Capitals, but the bad news is he hasn’t been on the ice since tweaking something in the third period of Tuesday’s overtime win vs. Pittsburgh.
The Bruins are officially giving Rask “a full day off” to rest and recuperate from the events of earlier this week, and that was after he was termed “not feeling 100 percent” while missing practice on Wednesday as well.
“We are going to use Vladar only because we’re going to give [Rask] a full day off,” said Bruce Cassidy, of the decision to have Vladar backup Halak on Thursday. “We kind of went through this and the decision was made that if he isn’t going to start, let’s keep him out of any worries of putting him in if anything should happen to Jaro. That’s the thinking. [Rask] will go back in Saturday. That’s the plan for right now.”
The 35-year-old Jaroslav Halak will get his regularly scheduled start on Thursday vs. the Penguins, and the Bruins will be in good hands with Halak already off to a strong start with a 1.44 goals against average and .938 save percentage this season. Meanwhile the 23-year-old Vladar will serve as the backup after making his first NHL appearance in the Toronto bubble last summer when he allowed three goals on 15 shots in relief against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The 6-foot-5, 185-pounder posted a sterling .936 save percentage in 25 games with the P-Bruins last season and got a jump on this year while playing in a handful of Czech League games for Pardubice before heading to Boston for the NHL season. Vladar had a 1.29 goals against average and a .956 save percentage in those six tune-up games before performing solidly in Bruins training camp at the beginning of the month.
As far as Rask goes, the bells and whistles won’t really begin blaring in earnest unless he’s unable to answer the proverbial bell this weekend against the Capitals. But the entire sequence leading to the injury was odd, including Rask being unable to seemingly get up before finishing off the game and making a couple of big saves in overtime for the victory.
So stay tuned to see if any surprises or absences continue with Rask as the Boston Bruins handle the situation carefully just a handful of games into a busy, condensed 56-game schedule this season. In addition to Rask being out for Thursday, Jake DeBrusk (lower body) will miss the game as well after taking a big hip check from Sidney Crosby early in the OT win. DeBrusk had an MRI that revealed there was no structural damage, but there’s no timetable on when he might return for a Boston Bruins already down a couple of wingers in David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase.
Here are the projected Boston Bruins line combos and D-pairings for Thursday night’s game vs. the Penguins: