No. 1 Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask returned to practice Monday, following a two-day quarantine imposed because of a cough he developed late last week in Toronto.
Rask, 33, served out his quarantine in his hotel room and was cleared to resume workouts, he said, because his daily testing for COVID-19 proved negative.
“It wasn’t easy to lay in your bed for a couple of days, obviously, being quarantined.” said Rask, who was in net every minute of last spring’s grueling playoff run through the Stanley Cup Final. “But you just try to catch up, get your legs under you, get ramped up again. A couple of more games, round-robin, and I feel confident that the next few days I’ll be back to normal.”
The Bruins, tepid and lackluster in a 4-1 loss the Flyers Sunday afternoon, next face the Lightning Wednesday in their second of three round-robin games. They don’t begin elimination play (opponent to be determined) until next Tuesday or Wednesday.
Coach Bruce Cassidy, who put Rask through the paces during a practice that began at noon, sounded prepared for Rask to make the start vs. Tampa Bay.
“He felt much better,” noted Cassidy. “Hopefully he progresses well and can be back in the net on Wednesday.”
Cassidy also said he expects Nick Ritchie, who did not play in last week’s exhibition game against the Blue Jackets or Sunday vs. the Flyers, to make his postseason debut vs the Bolts. The big-bodied winger (6-feet-2, 230 pounds) lined up Monday on David Krejci’s left wing, with Karson Kuhlman on the right side.
It’s more likely that rookie Jack Studnicka would slot back onto Krejci’s right wing Wednesday, but on Monday, he filled in for Patrice Bergeron (day off/maintenance) between top-liners Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.
Rask said he was quarantined once he noted his cough on a COVID app related to the players’ daily testing in the bubble.
“All kinds of red lights started blinking,” said the goalie, who belongs to a brotherhood trained to disdain red lights. “I was quarantined for two days. They wanted two negative tests after that, and that’s it.”
For his part, Rask said he will be ready to make the start. He started last Thursday vs. the Blue Jackets, gave up three goals, and ceded the net to Jaro Halak midway through the second period.
“At least I tested negative; I am still coughing but I am not too worried about that,” he said. “As long as the test came back negative, that’s all I care about. People have coughs, but I guess this day and age anything like that could be alarming.”
Ice hasn’t been ideal
Three games a day, often under intense playoff conditions, can’t help but take a toll on the Toronto ice surface. The pace and stress won’t really begin to abate until after Round 1 is wrapped up over the weekend of Aug. 22-23.
Until then, and maybe even in the days after, players will have to pay heed to the conditions, said Cassidy.
“Same for both teams,” he said, noting that the Flyers converted a play for a goal late in the second period when ice conditions weren’t ideal. “You can still make plays out there. You can still shoot the puck. It’s just you’re not going to be able to string three or four [passes] like you might be able to. The one-timers will be a little bit hopping around.”
So many “strong, powerful skaters” tearing around the ice, on some days across a 12-hour stretch, “is going to do some damage no matter how good the ice crew is,” reminded Cassidy.
“Just something you have to have a mind-set going in,” he added, “and after you play a few games, I’d hope that it changes for us a little bit on Wednesday, [so we] are a little more about taking the shot instead of making the extra pass. We’ll see if translates. We’ve addressed it.”
Day of rest
Bergeron’s maintenance day was routine for the 35-year-old pivot, who on Sunday played in his 137th career playoff game … Studnicka and fellow rookie Trent Frederic each took shifts with Marchand and Pastrnak, allowing both, said Cassidy, to experience life between “world class” players … With Ritchie set to ride at Krejci’s left wing, look for Jake DeBrusk to shift to Charlie Coyle’s right side on the No. 3 line, with Anders Bjork on the opposite wing …Kuhlman and Ondrej Kase both worked right wing with Krejci. Provided Studnicka fills that spot vs. Tampa Bay, Kuhlman might be on the sideline. Kase, who finally joined the club over the weekend, has been earmarked for a debut Sunday vs. the Capitals in the round-robin wrapup. “I don’t believe Kase will be ready Wednesday,” said Cassidy. “He hasn’t been on the ice enough; that would be a big ask. It’s still two days away, so I won’t rule him out, but we are targeting Sunday for him; get more reps.” … Cassidy on his club’s overall play: “I expected rust; we are seeing it. The quicker we can shake it off, the more we can say, ‘OK, now who’s playing well, who should be with who? And that will play out once individuals sort of round their own games into form.” … If he is in there vs. Tampa Bay, it will be Rask’s 90th career playoff start … Team captain Zdeno Chara will play Wednesday in his 184th playoff game, second only to the Penguins’ Patrick Marleau (192) among active NHLers.