Tuukka Rask didn’t skate at all last summer, with the Bruins recharging their batteries after a grueling run to the Stanley Cup Final.
After an unexpected three months-plus off, he is ready to see some rubber.
Beginning Wednesday, the Bruins netminder hopes to ramp up toward training camp by skating three times a week. In theory, he could get in perhaps eight or nine sessions before July 10, the proposed date for NHL training camps to open.
“I guess I should probably start skating a little bit, if we’re going to start playing hockey,” Rask said Monday on a team-hosted Zoom call. “Haven’t been able to do that a whole lot.
“I just got my latest testing done today for coronavirus. If that comes back a negative, I will skate Wednesday, and three days a week going from there. Then we’ll see what happens with the training camp.”
The NHL continues to cautiously walk its aspirational return-to-play road, amid reports of COVID-19 infections among players in hockey and other sports.
Among the developments of the last few days:
▪ Beginning Tuesday, teams will be permitted to expand voluntary “Phase 2” training groups from six players to 12, Sportsnet reported. Since the June 8 reopening of NHL team facilities, workout groups had been limited to no more than six.
To date, the Bruins have kept their workout groups small, with several players yet to return to the Boston area. Monday’s group included Zdeno Chara, Par Lindholm, and John Moore, the team said.
▪ The NHL said Friday that 11 players had tested positive for COVID-19, out of more than 200 who had been tested multiple times since Phase 2 began. That came after the Lightning reported positive tests for three players. The Toronto Sun also reported that Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews tested positive while training in Arizona. The Leafs did not confirm the report, calling it a private matter.
▪ Hub cities have not been selected, but the field is narrowing. The Athletic reported that Minneapolis/St. Paul and Columbus have been trimmed from the list of 10 candidates the NHL announced last month. Las Vegas, Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Edmonton are widely seen as contenders.
▪ Sportsnet reported that general managers were told Friday that training camps will be roughly 19 days. That includes two weeks of camp at a club’s home city, plus five or six days at the hub city, including travel.
▪ Multiple reports said NHL contracts set to expire June 30 will now be extended to Oct. 31. That accord is in response to foreign nationals needing work contracts for their visas if the league returns, not part of a larger agreement. Though the league and the Players Association have agreed on a July 10 opening of training camps, they have yet to announce joint plans for health and safety protocol for Phase 3 (training camp) and Phase 4 (the 24-team playoff).
Rask, naturally, is eager to chase the Stanley Cup once more.
“It’s fun to be back playing, I guess, if that happens,” he said. “The layoff has been so long that I think everybody starts at zero at this point, so I think our advantage that we might have had three months ago is gone.
“I think it’ll be exciting just to have some closure for the season. If they crown a champion, we’re definitely going to do whatever we can to be that team.”