There remained not a trace of white smoke billowing above the Bruins net Monday, leaving open for another day the question of how soon veteran goalie Tuukka Rask will sign a new contract and just when he will see game action again as a varsity stopper.
“Providence’s next game is Friday,” coach Bruce Cassidy noted during his day-of-game video conference, ahead of the evening’s 7-3 victory over the Capitals in Washington. “So we’ll have to discuss whether that’s in play, or if [he goes] right into our net at some point.”
That discussion, added Cassidy, would be Tuesday (a non-game day) or Wednesday. The Bruins will face the Canadiens at the Garden Wednesday night and are currently scheduled to host the Flyers on Thursday, though the NHL postponed Philadelphia’s Tuesday game against Carolina due to COVID issues affecting the Flyers.
Rask was on track to play one or two games with AHL Providence over the weekend, but both were scrubbed because of COVID concerns with the Lehigh Valley roster.
The winningest goalie in franchise history, Rask, 34, was on the ice again with Providence for a workout Saturday, but he has yet to play a tuneup game in the minors.
If Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, the coaching staff, and Rask all agree that a game in the minors remains essential, he could suit up Friday in Providence vs. Hartford.
On Saturday, the Bruins will face the Nashville Predators in a matinee at the Garden. The question then could become whether to start Rask less than 24 hours later.
It also remains a possibility that Rask signs his new deal with Sweeney, skips the minor fine tuning, and jumps back into the Boston lineup earlier in the week, be it against Montreal or the Flyers.
“The biggest thing for me was, if I feel great, I want to try to come back,” Rask said late last week, prior to his game with Providence getting scrubbed. “If I heal properly, I want to come back.
“Only thing at this point, I want to help out. I am not looking for a big contract, like I said before. I just want to come help out the guys and do my part that way.”
Rask last season finished out his eight-year, $56 million contract, became an unrestricted free agent, then underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn hip labrum. Provided he comes to terms on a new deal — perhaps for a prorated $3 million? — he will not have to clear NHL waivers prior to rejoining the Bruins.
Meanwhile, Cassidy on Monday morning named Linus Ullmark his starter in net vs. the Capitals. Ullmark, backed up by rookie Jeremy Swayman, was in net for the 5-2 thumping of the Lightning Saturday night in Tampa, his sixth start over the last nine games.
MRI for Foligno
Nick Foligno, who appeared to wrench a knee midway through the first period Saturday night in Tampa, will undergo an MRI Tuesday.
“We’ll have a better update once they take those pictures and get back to us,” said Cassidy.
With the Bruins ahead, 2-0, Foligno got tangled up with Tampa Bay’s Cal Foote and was in obvious pain, limping as he made his way to the dressing room. He did not return, his production this year remaining a meager 1-5—6 through 23 games.
Karlson Kuhlman (1-1—2 in 18 games) drew back into the lineup against Washington for Foligno, who had ridden left wing of late on a productive third line with Charlie Coyle and rookie Oskar Steen.
Foligno, 34, was among Sweeney’s handful of summer free-agent acquisitions, inking a two-year deal with a $3.8 million cap hit.
If Foligno is sidelined for a while, it increases even more the chances that Steen will remain with the varsity. Cassidy reiterated that Steen’s play and production (1-4—5 in seven games) have diminished the chance that he’ll be returned to Providence.
“He’s played himself into a spot, and he’s kept a spot, because of his play — very simply put,” said Cassidy. “We have some left shots over on the right wing, so it helps that he is a right stick. It balances our group out.”
Jake DeBrusk, a left shot, is due back this week from his tour in COVID protocol. He would likely plug into No. 3 left wing if Foligno remains out, and Steen would remain on the right side.
“He’s made it real difficult for us to take him out, and we haven’t,” said Cassidy. “Good for him; that’s what we want.”
Adding young talent such as the 23-year-old Steen, Cassidy believes, sends an encouraging message to kids in the minors.
“It gives the guys down in Providence a little juice,” he said. “They think, ‘Hey, you know what, there is room up there, a guy can push his way in.’ So it’s good for the group down there as well.”
First look at Fucale
The Bruins were facing 26-year-old rookie goalie Zach Fucale for the first time and ended his historic start with authority, blasting him for four goals in 16 shots before he was pulled less than eight minutes into the second period.
Originally a Montreal pick (No. 36 in 2013), Fucale signed as a free agent a couple of years ago with Washington and only recently got his first NHL work after six-plus seasons and 216 games in the minors. He set an NHL record by not allowing a goal in his first 138 minutes, 7 seconds, across three appearances, but took his first loss in ugly fashion Monday.
Fucale, who grew up in Montreal, played for nine minor league franchises, including five AHL and four ECHL. He made his NHL debut with a win over Detroit Nov. 11, some eight years and five months after being drafted.
McAvoy is back
Charlie McAvoy, sidelined with a lower-body injury and unspecified joint swelling the previous two games, was third among defensemen with 20:42 of ice time against the Capitals … Ullmark moved to6-1-0 mark in his last seven starts. In the prior six, he allowed 14 goals, stopping 175 of 189 shots for a .926 save percentage … The Bruins’ 4-0 lead after two periods in Tampa was their biggest at the 40:00 mark this season. Entering Monday night, they were 13-1-0 when holding a lead entering the third period. They were 2-8-2 (.250) when trailing … The upcoming Habs/Flyers visit will be the fifth time this season the Bruins have played back-to-back couplets. They stand 4-3-1 in those matchups … Taylor Hall, left winger on the newly shaped Hall-Erik Haula-David Pastrnak trio, had helpers on goals by Pastrnak and Haula on Monday after he assisted on both Pastrnak strikes in Tampa. Hall, the ex-MVP, also had a pair vs. Florida (Oct. 30) and Edmonton (Dec. 9), but remains in search of his first multi-goal game of the season.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.