NASHVILLE – The one player the Bruins can’t afford to lose for any extended length of time is All-Star goaltender Tuukka Rask, and they may have dodged a bullet with him on Thursday night.
Rask was forced out of Thursday night’s game against the Nashville Predators after catching a Roman Josi shot in the throat area midway through the first period. It was pretty clear quickly afterward that something was amiss. Rask immediately went down after being hit by the puck and had to be helped off the ice and back to the Bruins dressing room by Bruins head trainer Donnie DelNegro.
Rask never returned to the game after his three saves in the first period, but said he “was going to be okay” while walking out of Bridgestone Arena under his own power following Boston’s 2-1 loss to the Predators. Claude Julien didn’t have any postgame update aside from confirming his No. 1 goalie had been hit in the throat area with the Josi shot.
“There are a couple of spots in our equipment that are more vulnerable than others, and it just hit him in that spot,” said B’s backup goalie Zane McIntyre. “From there you never know what happens. We know [Rask] is a battler and he’s a warrior, so he’ll be good.”
McIntyre was called in to replace the fallen Rask between the pipes, and stopped 14-of-16 shots in the loss with a pair of second period goals allowed. Obviously nothing is set in stone on Rask’s health until the Bruins make an official announcement, but it goes without saying the loss of Rask for any period of time would be disastrous to a Bruins team that’s counted him to be their best player all season.
BRIGHTON, Mass – The long regional nightmare for Bruins fans might be coming to an end sooner rather than later.
That’s because Patrice Bergeron hopped on the ice on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of his team’s morning skate and then stuck around to jump in and out of drills while showing strong progress from his fractured right foot suffered at the end of February.
Clearly, Bergeron isn’t ready to play now and will miss his 11th consecutive game Monday night when the B's face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden.
Still, it looks like No. 37 will be headed on the four-game road trip after the game and could potentially become an option to play at some point over the next week or two. Certainly, it’s a sign that Bergeron is going to be able to come back and play meaningful games before the playoffs. That’s something that has the 32-year-old excited after missing the past three weeks.
“It was nice to be back on the ice and skating. It felt good. It’s been a long three weeks, but it was nice to finally move forward and be on the ice. It was definitely nice to be on the ice with the guys,” said Bergeron, who skated on Sunday with Bruins Skating and Skills Coach Kim Branvold as well. “There’s definitely still some discomfort, but it’s a lot better. That was to be expected that it wasn’t going to be perfect when I was back right away.
“I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel right now being on the ice. We’re trying not to set a timeline right now, but just make sure I feel good and have my bearings on the ice. So far I’m happy with where we’re at.”
Certainly, it would be good timing if Bergeron returned soon when it appears David Backes (deep laceration on his right leg) is going to miss a week or two and Jake DeBrusk is out with no timetable for a return after getting dinged with a big hit in Carolina on Boston’s most recent trip.
Impressively, the Bruins have gone 8-2-0 since Bergeron has been out. Riley Nash has been a point-per-game player in March while filling in for No. 37 with three goals and nine points in nine games along with a plus-4 rating. Still, the Bruins all know their all-around game will rise to another level when they get their best all-around player back in the lineup and re-form what’s been the best two-way forward in the NHL this season with Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.
BRIGHTON -- Ryan Donato will make his NHL debut for the Bruins on Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and it looks like he’ll do it as a member of the third line.
The newly-signed Harvard star was wearing No. 17 at morning skate on Monday at Warrior Ice Arena, and skating on the left wing with Noel Acciari and Brian Gionta in a new-look third line made necessary by injures to Patrice Bergeron, David Backes and Jake DeBrusk in the last few weeks.
Donato signed with the Bruins on Sunday, so it will be interesting to see how ready he is to “plug and play” at the NHL level after crushing NCAA competition with 26 goals in 29 games for the Crimson this season.
Otherwise it was a fairly standard lineup for the Bruins aside from Tommy Wingels dropping down to the fourth line to allow Acciari to center the third line, and thereby allow Donato to play the wing position where the B’s project him to be at the NHL level.
In other very positive B’s news, Bergeron -- recovering from a fractured right foot -- made a return to the ice, working on his own ahead of morning skate and then jumping in here and there in the team skate/
Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Blue Jackets based on morning skate: