While the Bruins tuned up Saturday morning in Tampa for their evening matchup with the Lightning, veteran goalie Tuukka Rask spent another morning working out in Providence with the club’s AHL affiliate.
It’s now possible, according to coach Bruce Cassidy, that the 34-year-old Rask won’t get in a tuneup game before engaging in his first NHL action this season, which could come as soon as Wednesday night at home against the Canadiens.
“To be honest, I’m not sure when he’s going to play,” said Cassidy, noting Rask’s plans to play over the weekend with Providence were washed out because of the opposing club’s (Lehigh Valley) COVID-related concerns. “We’ll try to get him some game action wherever we can. He might have to start playing here and miss some assignments in Providence. We’ll have to make that decision when we get back.”
The Bruins, who defeated the Lightning, 5-2, are due back in town in the wee hours on Tuesday, following their game Monday night in Washington. No telling if they will practice on Tuesday.
Before pulling on a Spoked-B sweater again, Rask first must come to contract terms with the varsity. He said on Thursday, in his lone Zoom session since undergoing offseason hip surgery, that he didn’t expect any bumps in the road regarding a new contract.
“We have a plan in place and it should not be an issue,” he said.
The Maine Mariners, Boston’s other minor-pro affiliate, had a game scheduled Saturday night in Portland vs. Adirondack, another one there Sunday (3 p.m.) against the same club from Glens Falls, N.Y.
During his morning Zoom session, Cassidy was asked if suiting up for either of those ECHL games would be possible, or perhaps a waste of time for someone with Rask’s playing pedigree.
“I don’t know if it would be a waste of time — live action is a good thing,” said Cassidy. “You know, risk of injury, you always want to be careful, your first game back.”
Cassidy said he “did not believe” the idea of playing for the Mariners had been entertained by general manager Don Sweeney. Contacted later in the day, Sweeney reported there were no plans for Rask to play in Portland this weekend.
“I think that’s got to be Tuukka’s call at the end of the day,” added Cassidy. “Then we’d have to make that call at the end of the day, if we agreed with him.”
If Rask finalizes a varsity deal in the next day or two, he’d be entering at a very busy time. Following the game vs. the Habs, the Flyers are in town on Thursday, and then the Predators on Saturday.
Ex-Bruin David Krejci recently expressed to a Czechia news website that he wishes he had the opportunity to center a line with David Pastrnak during his time in Boston, a luxury enjoyed the last week-plus by No. 2 pivot Erik Haula.
“Coach Cassidy rarely let the two of us play together,” Krejci told isport.cz. “It had to be so that he split the first line and put Pasta to me. It was a maximum of two matches.
“Years later, I leave Boston and suddenly it’s possible. That struck me,” said Krejci, according to Google Translate. “The coach always told me that there was no reason for Pasta’s removal from the first line and that it would be as short as possible to distribute the forces. I had to take it. But now Pasta is five or how many matches in the line with [Taylor] Hall and Haula. Strange.”
“Yeah, well, [Sean] Kuraly asked to play with Pastrnak. [Charlie] Coyle asked to play with Pastrnak. In fact, Riley Nash asked to play with Pastrnak,” said Cassidy when asked Saturday morning about the comments. “They all wanted to play with Pastrnak. Who wouldn’t, right?”
Cassidy said he understood Krejci’s point of view, noting that the star Czech center didn’t play with Pastrnak as much as he would have liked, albeit at a time when the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Pastrnak trio was “arguably the best in the National Hockey League.”
Cassidy switched the lines just hours before the Jan. 1 game against Buffalo and has stuck with it, shifting Pastrnak to Haula’s line and adding Craig Smith to the Marchand-Bergeron combination.
“We also felt that David could drive a line by himself,” added Cassidy, reflecting on prior years. “Sorry, that came out wrong … David could drive a line, no matter who his wingers were, and we saw some of that. I’m not sure Erik Haula is in that position right now. So there are some differences from why we made the switch now than years ago.”
The offense showed immediate pop, scoring 14 goals over the first three games after the switch. A total of 13 players scored those 14 goals, the greatest distribution the club has seen over a three-game stretch in 30 years.
“I respect David’s opinion,” said Cassidy of Krejci. “He was a great Bruin. We are doing what we have to do for the team now and hopefully it’s the right decision. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Krejci played out his contract last season and returned home to Czechia, entering the weekend with a 17-17—34 line in 35 games with Olomouc.
Speculation remains here, and abroad, that Krejci could return to the NHL this season, once the Olomouc season is finished. Unlike Rask, Krejci first would have to clear waivers, because he subsequently signed to play with another professional league after his Boston contract expired.
“A couple of [teammates] and other people asked me if I would make the trip back [to Boston],” Krejci told isport.cz. “But there’s no answer, no one knows at this point, including me.”
It’s highly unlikely that Krejci would make it through waivers and land back in Boston. A club lower in the overall standings almost assuredly would pick off his rights, in part to keep him from bolstering the Black and Gold’s playoff chances.
McAvoy sits again
Charlie McAvoy, who sat out Thursday’s loss to the Wild due to a lower-body injury, was due back in against the Lightning, despite being off skates the last three days. Cassidy sounded confident that McAvoy would be good to go vs. the Caps. “He just didn’t feel right today,” explained Cassidy. “This morning, it looked like he was going to be OK but things haven’t settled down for him as much as he’d like — so he wanted another day to let it calm down.” The opening allowed first-round pick Urho Vaakanainen to draw into the lineup. He did not attempt a shot, but skated 16:06 dependable minutes and finished +1…The Lightning, easy 4-1 winners over Calgary Thursday night with Nikita Kucherov (two helpers) back in the lineup, topped the NHL standings Friday morning with 51 points. Their .708 points percentage ranked No. 4 overall, trailing Carolina (.756), Florida (.721), and Toronto (.719). Kucherov had a quiet night, landing five shots on Ullmark but not registering a point. He finished -3 … Both Bruins goals (Taylor Hall, Brad Marchand) vs. the Wild came on the power play, which had gone a meager 2 for 22 over the previous nine games. The Bruins last popped for a pair on the advantage when the Canucks visited here on Nov. 28. Their best night this season was Nov. 4 vs. Detroit, Bergeron rattling home three on the man-up as part of his four-goal night. They were 0 for 2 on the advantage vs. the Lightning… Through 30 games, the Bruins saw their advantage in lead time dwindle to 591:07 to 546:14. They added 58:49 to that margin on Saturday night. In their previous five-game segment, they went 3-2-0 and trailed (125:15) more than they led (84:48) …The Bruins added a three-game taxi squad prior to heading to Tampa, bringing on Vaakanainen, a forward (Steven Fogarty), and goalie (Troy Groseneck) from Providence …Pastrnak fired a game-high 11 times and landed 7 on net.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.