Tuukka Rask won’t start for the Bruins Wednesday. But the franchise’s all-time leader in victories will be back in uniform against the Canadiens and could start as soon as Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Rask, who signed a pro-rated one-year, $1 million deal Tuesday, is back after offseason hip surgery. He’ll back up Linus Ullmark on Wednesday. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa and Bruce Cassidy would decide when Rask makes his debut.
“He’ll practice tomorrow and back up tomorrow night. Goalie Bob and Butch will make a decision from there,” Sweeney said.
The Bruins host Philadelphia on Thursday and Nashville on Saturday.
In a corresponding move, Jeremy Swayman was sent down to the AHL.
“I had a conversation with Jeremy this afternoon. He’ll be reporting to Providence,” said Sweeney, who explained that Swayman isn’t eligible to stay with the team on the taxi squad. “If we have an injury or COVID, Jeremy would certainly have the opportunity.”
Other than carrying three goalies, demoting Swayman was Sweeney’s only available move. Linus Ullmark has a no-movement clause and couldn’t be traded or demoted. Swayman, who is 8-6-2, leads the Bruins with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
“He was disappointed, but not overly surprised based on how it was tracking for Tuukka’s health,” Sweeney said. “Jeremy took it in stride as a professional and is extremely motivated to be a top-flight goaltender which we believe in. He knows that. … He knows he’s a big part of our current team as well as going forward. He’s got a helluva long career ahead of him as a Boston Bruin.”
Rask, 34, battled a hip injury that eventually required labrum surgery throughout last season. He maintained if he was to return to the NHL, he only wanted to play in Boston. Rask remained an unsigned free agent as he went through rehab until last week when he signed a professional tryout contract with the Providence Bruins, in hopes of getting at least one tuneup start. But COVID issues in the Lehigh Valley Phantoms organization postponed Providence’s weekend slate.
“We had an understanding as he was going through the process that if he was healthy he was going to try to play,” Sweeney said. “We got to the point where he was ready to go.”
Sweeney praised Rask and agent Markus Lehto for agreeing to a salary-cap-friendly deal.
“I applauded Tuukka and Markus. They’re not blind to the salary cap challenges we all face,” Sweeney said. “I appreciate them working with us in that regard.”
Story by Matt Vautour, masslive.com