The Bruins are giving Tuukka Rask some time off.
Rask, who was not on the ice for practice Friday, was “granted a leave of absence relating to a personal matter,” according to a one-sentence statement released by the club.
Speaking to the media after practice, general manager Don Sweeney said the goaltender’s leave, expected to last “the next few days,” was not health-related. Sweeney declined to address whether the issue was sudden or ongoing, or related to his family, referring to the personal nature of the situation.
Rask’s agent, Markus Lehto, declined comment for the same reason.
“The decision was made today,” Sweeney said. “He had asked for that, and that’s why we made it public.”
To replace Rask on the roster, the Bruins will call up a goaltender from AHL Providence, either Zane McIntyre or Dan Vladar, after Friday’s game against Scranton-Wilkes/Barre.
Rask has taken time off before — in March 2017, for example, the club called it a “maintenance day” after a rough night in Tampa — but it is unusual to see him leave for an extended period, in advance of a back-to-back weekend of games (Toronto on Saturday, Vegas on Sunday). In and around the Bruins’ practice facility, they were keeping a mask on the problem.
“We support his decision,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “Hopefully it’s going to be solved soon, and he’s going to be back here with us.
“Obviously we miss him. He’s our teammate. He’s our brother. He’s been here for a long time. But like I said, we all understand and respect his privacy. . . . We support him and think of him and obviously have to play without him.”
Patrice Bergeron echoed that sentiment.
“He’s a great friend,” Bergeron said, “and we’re all here for him.”
Coach Bruce Cassidy said Jaroslav Halak could play both games this weekend. He will start against the Maple Leafs (10-5-0), currently in second place in the Atlantic Division, 2 points ahead of Boston (8-5-2) and 1 point ahead of Montreal (8-5-3).
“I think tomorrow we’ll be focused on the Maple Leafs. Business as usual,” Cassidy said. “I’m sure different players will reach out to Tuukka. You lose some players here and there during the year. Teams are pretty good at getting dialed into business.”
Rask, in his 12th season and sixth as a starter, was off to a subpar start (4-4-0, 3.05 goals against average, .901 save percentage) and had ceded playing time to Halak, who arrived here via free agency on July 1. Halak was ostensibly Rask’s backup when he signed a two-year deal worth $2.75 million annually. Rask, the former Vezina Trophy winner (2013-14), will make $7 million per through 2021. It is the most expensive goalie duo the club has ever had.
Both fizzled in Thursday’s 8-5 loss to the Canucks, Cassidy yanking Halak for Rask in the second period.
Typically blunt and sometimes profane, especially when assessing his game, Rask found humor after allowing three goals on 14 shots in relief.
“You just try to be ready and go out there and do some damage control,” Rask said. “Today, I did it in my own way. . . . I was just trying to keep it under 10.
“A loss is a loss, it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. It was kind of a crazy game both ways,” he said. “You know, a lot of goals scored and there was — at the end it looked like everyone was napping in the crowd. It was just one of those games where there wasn’t a whole lot of action on either end — low shots and you know all of a sudden it’s 5-3, 8-5 whatever.
“So yeah, weird game, but that’s entertainment and we’re just providing it.”
Should the Bruins wish to trade Rask — and there is no indication that is their thinking — the 31-year-old would have to waive his no-trade clause, and provide a list of eight possible teams.
Rask’s replacement Friday in Brighton, wearing a white mask and white-and-gold pads and manning the cage opposite Halak, was Keith Segee, a Revere native and Massachusetts state trooper the Bruins sometimes use as an emergency netminder.
As for the potential call-up, neither Vladar (1-3-1, 2.81, .899) nor McIntyre (2-4-0, 3.86, .826) has been particularly impressive with Providence, which had the AHL’s second-worst record (3-7-1, 7 points) entering Friday.