BRIGHTON, Mass – In another step closer to an actual return to the Boston Bruins, Tuukka Rask actually practiced with the rest of the team on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of their three-game road trip through Western Canada.
Well hello there, EBUG Tuukka Rask 👀 pic.twitter.com/fiq85YEEui
— NESN (@NESN) December 6, 2021
It had a bit of an optional practice feel with Linus Ullmark, Tomas Nosek, Charlie McAvoy, Charlie Coyle and Matt Grzelcyk all missing from the ice as a non-COVID illness has ripped through the team after forcing McAvoy to miss Saturday’s overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. So Rask served as an emergency goalie at Monday’s practice in place of Ullmark, thereby relieving the Bruins of a necessary contract in place with the veteran goaltender ahead of practice time.
“It’s always fun having him out there. It’s incredibly frustrating shooting on him,” said Brad Marchand, who will be making his return from serving a three-game suspension on the Western Canada road trip that begins in Vancouver on Wednesday night. “You shoot it as hard as you can and he just makes it look so simple. He’s such a gifted and talented goalie. It was great to see him back out there again.”
Rask had previously received special NHL permission to work out at the Boston Bruins practice facility and utilize their training staff as he returns from summer hip surgery. That work continues at a five practice-per-week clip for Rask as a timeline for a possible January return is still potentially in place for him as the Bruins have hinted that the ball is in Rask’s court about a contract for this season.
“If he’s healthy and wants to play, he is likely to be a part of our group,” said Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney last week of Rask as he ramps up his rehab program after summer surgery on his hip. “There’s a general understanding that Tuukka has to make a decision on his health first and foremost, and then when he’s officially made that decision then we’ll find the common ground.”
The Bruins are currently 14th in the NHL with a .914 save percentage and have received sometimes good, mostly inconsistent work from both rookie Jeremy Swayman and veteran Linus Ullmark to date. Boston Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco said that Rask certainly looked healthy to him while dropping into a true NHL practice pace with no restrictions for the first time in over six months.
“It was good to see him. Brought a little excitement to the boys out there,” said Sacco. “Just by watching him, he looked good. You can’t tell just by watching him how close he is, but he certainly looked good out there. I think he had some fun and I know the guys were excited to see him out there too.”
Patrice Bergeron was also missing from Monday’s practice as he was having his nose re-set after it was broken during a nasty hit from Predators forward Filip Forsberg in a game last week.