WILMINGTON — He’s back.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask rejoined the team during an optional practice at Ristuccia Arena Thursday.
Rask, who returned from Sochi, Russia, after earning a bronze medal with Team Finland, said he felt energized and ready to resume his duties.
Whether he plays Saturday when the Capitals come to TD Garden for a matinee remains to be seen.
Coach Claude Julien said the team will go through a full practice Friday (with the exception of Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson, who will be given a rest day), after which he will discuss how Rask is feeling and make the determination on his goaltender.
Rask, despite missing his country’s game against rival Sweden because he was ill, said he had a terrific time and enjoyed being the underdog.
“I don’t think [anybody] picked us to win a medal,’’ he said. “You look at the four teams — the best in the world [Canada, US, Sweden, and Russia] — but we knew if we played our system, we’d have a chance to beat anybody and we showed it. We played a great game against Canada. It could’ve gone either way. Then beating the Russians, we [played] some great games. Nobody expected us to win but we felt pretty confident.’’
Rask said going into the bronze-medal game against Team USA, the Finns were inspired by six-time Olympian Teemu Selanne, who played in his final Games.
“It was huge,’’ said Rask. “He had a little speech before the game. He said, ‘For a country like Finland, these opportunities, you don’t expect them to come every four years and when they come, we really try to make the most out of it and play for each other.’ That was something I’ve seen [in Boston] but never been on a national team like that. We really felt like everybody played for each other, especially for Teemu, his last tournament. We wanted to finish on the right note and we did.’’
Although conditions in Russia were criticized as being substandard, Rask said the athletes’ conditions were excellent.
“It was great,’’ he said. “As far as the athletes were concerned, I don’t think we had any problems. Everything was top notch. The security was tight but it wasn’t noticeably tight. The house we stayed at was great, the rink was great, the food was great. Everything was just great.’’
Rask’s only disappointment was not being able to play against Sweden.
“What can you do?’’ said Rask. “I could’ve played but if you’re like [at] 40 percent, it doesn’t really make any sense to go out there when you have two [other] No. 1 goalies. That kind of helped my decision to stay off. It happens. No hard feelings, it’s life.’’
Julien said he thought Rask represented his country extremely well.
“I thought he did a great job over there,’’ said the coach. “His first game was maybe just an average game for him but after that, he stood tall for his team. It was unfortunate he couldn’t play in that game [against Sweden] because he was sick. He was giving them a chance every game to win. He had a great tournament and we hope he comes back and continues to play that way.’’
The Bruins looked rusty in their first game back Wednesday, losing, 5-4, in overtime to the Sabres in Buffalo.
“Defensively, we were a little loose,’’ said Julien. “Some of the mistakes we made defensively were probably where most of the rust showed. When you score four goals, normally that’s enough for our team to win a hockey game. But in a way, we gave them goals and that’s probably the area where we‘re going to have to really focus on in the next few days.’’
Julien said it wasn’t goaltender Chad Johnson’s fault.
“I think Chad had the same rust everybody else did defensively,’’ said the coach. “It’s just one of those things where he’s played such good hockey for us and last night wasn’t maybe his best outing, but we didn’t help him with our defensive play.’’
McQuaid not cleared
Defenseman Adam McQuaid (leg injury) didn’t skate Thursday. He is still a possibility to return Saturday. “He was given the day off,’’ said Julien. “When the guys had Sunday off, he also skated. He’s coming along well but he hasn’t been cleared yet. He’s a day-to-day candidate right now and we’ve got to wait and see when he gets his clearance.’’ . . . With Rask back in the fold, goaltender Niklas Svedberg was returned to Providence (AHL) . . . Julien said he has been in touch with general manager Peter Chiarelli regarding the March 5 trade deadline. Julien said everyone is aware of the void created when defenseman Dennis Seidenberg (right knee) was injured. “The Seidenberg injury is, I think, what weighs on everybody,’’ he said. “Again, easier said than done. I’m sure if there’s help available, that if we can get some help, we will. If not, I’m going forward and feeling comfortable that those guys will step it up like they did last year. Most of the time we add without subtracting. We like our team, we are comfortable with our team. We’re not very big at this time of year at giving away players. It’s worked well for us in the past.’’