Bruins

Bruins

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask announced Saturday he is opting out of the NHL's return to play

The news broke a short while before puck drop for Game 3 of Boston's first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series versus the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told reporters before the game that the team fully supports Rask's choice.

"We understand completely where Tuukka is coming from," Sweeney said. "I don't think it's any big surprise to us to be honest with you. We’re privy to information maybe before the rest of the public is, and this has been a difficult decision for Tuukka, but the Boston Bruins are in full support of why he made this decision."

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Sweeney noted that family was a huge factor in Rask's decision to return home.

"Fortunately his family is safe and healthy, but with a newborn and two other young girls you know it's been challenging and for Tuukka as well," Sweeney explained. "I think that again, nothing specific, we're fortunate that his family is all healthy, and they're going to have their dad back to be around on a regular basis is exactly what Tuukka needs to do at this point in time."

Did Sweeney think Rask opting out was a possibility before the team came to the Toronto bubble?

"I mean, again, he didn't really give us an indication that this was absolutely going to happen," Sweeney said. "In conversations with all of our players, you saw with Steve Kampfer making an early decision, you're seeing players in different sports make family decisions, and during the course of the time up here it's been increasingly more and more difficult for Tuukka to mentally stay where he needs to be and ultimately made a decision that he felt he had to be in a different place.

 

"I think we all understand that these are trying times for everybody. The NHL’s done a fabulous job in protecting the players’ health and safety, but the priority for Tuukka at this point in time, rightfully so, has to be his family and we support that."

Rask's absence leaves backup Jaroslav Halak as the team's starting goalie. Halak has 31 games of playoff experience and is more than capable of rising to the challenge.

"Jaro is a pro and I think over the last two years we've been a hockey club that's relied on everybody and Jaro’s been a big part of that," Sweeney said. "You know we've split starts; we've rarely played players back to back. Jaro is mentally and physically ready to step in and assume the role and obviously we hope that he rises to that challenge.

"But from the standpoint of knowing that there was always going to be a back to back and then we had another one thrown in there, so I think Jaro was well prepared and has an understanding that it was going to take probably in most situations and you're seeing a lot of cases around the League where both goaltenders have been used, anyway, even in the initial rounds."

Halak will start for the Bruins on Saturday in Game 3 against the Hurricanes.