Tuukka Rask will have an opportunity to win his third consecutive game Saturday when he starts against the Florida Panthers.
The Bruins snapped a four-game losing streak last Saturday against the New York Islanders, a critical game in Brooklyn for which Rask did not make the trip because of an injury.
Since then, he has bounced back with two strong performances, including a 2-0 shutout of Dallas Thursday night. Rask made 24 saves two nights earlier in a 4-1 win against Nashville.
Immediately after Saturday’s game, the Bruins will head for Chicago, where they will face the Blackhawks Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
Would coach Bruce Cassidy consider leaving Rask behind to eliminate extra travel and allow him to rest ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who entered Friday night 3 points behind Boston?
“Without getting ahead of ourselves, Tuukka will start tomorrow,” Cassidy said. “I guess that could have been a consideration, but that’s not my decision to make. We’re leaving right after the game, so that would be a quick discussion because we’d need a body.
“The positives are, you play the hypothetical, he gets a little rest, but what message does that send to the rest of the group? What if you need him [Sunday]? It’s a big game. But clearly, he’s going to play tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”
Bumps and bruises
Defenseman Zdeno Chara and forward David Krejci were absent from practice Friday with maintenance days. Forwards Frank Vatrano and Tim Schaller did not participate, and Cassidy ruled them both out for the weekend.
Vatrano sustained a minor upper-body injury in Wednesday’s practice and Schaller has been out with a lower-body injury since crashing into the boards March 8. Schaller recently wore a red noncontact jersey, and on Thursday Cassidy said he was cleared for contact. But Schaller’s absence Friday and this weekend shows he’s still not ready.
“I can’t tell you for sure if he’ll skate tomorrow, but he had today off,” Cassidy said.
Adam McQuaid skated Friday and said he was fine after briefly leaving Thursday’s game in the third period.
Stars defenseman Julius Honka fended off Dominic Moore as he carried the puck across the blue line Thursday, but Honka didn’t see Noel Acciari, positioned perfectly to deliver a bone-shattering hit. It sent the TD Garden crowd into a frenzy and was one of Acciari’s nine hits in the game.
He had eight the game before against the Predators, and his physical play is something the Bruins are quickly starting to appreciate. Acciari is doling out heavy but clean hits, something that can be difficult to achieve considering how closely plays are scrutinized in the interest of player safety.
“He hits guys looking in the eye,” Cassidy said. “He hits like a football player. It’s always shoulders square, going right at that guy. Rarely do I remember him blowing anybody up from behind. I don’t think he’s ever looked for those hits.
“He looks for hits in open ice, which is rare now to do that. He sneaks up on people. It’s like Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] when he forechecks with his sticks and angles and before you know it they’re in a bad spot.
“With Noel, it’s more he’s there and they don’t think he’s there yet and, bang, he’s in your face.
“It seems like every hit and you’re in the box and he managed to stay out. Why is that? I think because his elbows are down and it’s a skill for him and been a nice addition to our group, guys who change the momentum and keep the other team on their toes.”
Acciari said his physical style started in college at Providence. At the pro level, he has honed his skills by working with Kim Brandvold, the Bruins’ skating coach. At 5 feet 10 inches and 208 pounds, Acciari isn’t going to be bigger than every opponent. But he utilizes a strong base, something Brandvold helped him refine.
“It’s helped me mentally and to be as strong as I am on my skates and be aware to get hits,” Acciari said. “I worked on it the last few years and he’s been great.
“Just being able to throw these hits with good angles starts with my footwork, and he’s been a part of it. I never did many skating clinics when I was younger, so it’s all new to me.”
The 25-year-old Acciari, who has played in 44 NHL games, scored his first goal Tuesday against Nashville.
Cassidy said Acciari also is skilled on the penalty kill — an area they’d like to add him to.
Acciari wasn’t the only hard hitter at practice. The Bruins had a visit from Patriots safety Patrick Chung, who watched the players practice from the bench, then joined them on the ice for some drills toward the end.
Chung looked frustrated when a few passes bounced off his stick, but he finally scored at the end ( Anton Khudobin may have let the puck sneak through him).
“That was something set up ahead of time,” said Cassidy. “He wanted to skate with the fellas. Well, he looked pretty good. Knew what he was doing.
“Not sure we’re going to inject him into the lineup, but he looked like he was having fun out there.”