EDMONTON, Alberta — Kurtis Mucha was supposed to spend Wednesday taking a spatial economy final.
Instead, the University of Alberta goaltender was summoned to Rexall Place to stop pucks in place of Tuukka Rask, felled by the stomach bug that has been sweeping through the Bruins.
With only one healthy goaltender — Chad Johnson having recovered from the illness — the Bruins needed a second to get in a full practice upon touching down here. Enter Mucha.
He got a call just before noon from the university, letting him know the Bruins could use a goalie for their 1:30 p.m. practice. His next move was to call his teacher.
“Had to talk to my teacher, get that postponed,” Mucha said of his final. “She was good with it, so I hustled down to our rink, got my stuff, and over here in about 45 minutes.”
He wasn’t going to pass up the chance.
“Could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” Mucha said. “The teacher was pretty understanding about it.”
Mucha had played at Rexall Place in juniors, but not with players like Jarome Iginla and Zdeno Chara.
“It’s pretty special,” said Mucha, who actually played in juniors against Milan Lucic and who grew up near Edmonton native Johnny Boychuk. “A lot of big-name players on this team. The tradition and history that goes with that logo, any time anybody puts it on, it’s an honor. It was a great time for me and something I’ll always remember.”
Mucha spent the day enjoying the experience, and did his best to be the last guy on the ice.
“I was really happy that we got some help today,” coach Claude Julien said. “It was a last-minute call on our part, and he came in here and made our practice a lot better than it would have been with one goaltender.”
Both Bruins goalies have been ill this week, starting with Johnson, who was not able to play on Tuesday in what was to have been his start against the Calgary Flames.
It remains to be seen if Rask will be healthy enough to play Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
It’s just another hurdle for a team that has been swept by illness, injury, and suspension in the last week.
“I don’t know if we’re playing well. We’re winning hockey games,” Julien said. “They are struggles. We played a real good, solid third period [on Tuesday]. The second period was a struggle, but we find ways to win. Sometimes the experience of our team and the guys that we have that are healthy certainly helps.
“But we know that we can be much better. Sometimes you have to be honest and you look at the standings and be realistic with the assessment of your team, and it’s maybe not the same. We’re happy to be where we are but we should and have to be a lot better.”
Daniel Paille sent home
Daniel Paille was sent back to Boston, where he’ll be evaluated by the medical staff. Paille did not play Tuesday because of an undisclosed upper-body injury, and will miss at least the rest of the road trip. The Bruins called up Calgary native Nick Johnson on Tuesday to take Paille’s place. Boston now has just 12 forwards for the remaining two games of this four-game trip. The team does have an extra defenseman in Adam McQuaid, who skated on Wednesday, the first time he has done so since reinjuring his hip/groin. Julien did not have an update on McQuaid’s condition after practice . . . Boychuk said he came through his first game back with no significant issues. He had suffered back spasms after being boarded by Max Pacioretty last Thursday in Montreal. “Better than I thought, so that’s a good sign,” Boychuk said. “I didn’t get hit too much last game, so that kind of helped out. When I did get a hit or give a hit, it felt pretty good actually.” . . . Oilers captain Andrew Ference stopped by practice to see a few of his former teammates. “It’ll be different, six years playing with him,” Lucic said. “You can battle in practice as much as you want, but it’s definitely not the same as a game. Obviously, you know he’s going to be fired up to play against us. He’s come here and done a good job as a captain so far. We’re excited to finally compete against one another because we know he’s a competitor and we don’t expect anything other than that.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.