Tuukka Rask's return to the Boston Bruins is very close.
The veteran goaltender signed a professional tryout agreement with the Providence Bruins on Thursday. He was expected to start Friday night for the P-Bruins vs. the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, but the team's weekend games have been postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Friday's game was rescheduled to April 11 and Saturday's will take place April 19.
If all goes well when he eventually takes the ice, Rask expects to be with the Bruins in Boston very soon.
"We have a plan in place. It shouldn't be an issue. I plan on playing tomorrow here (in Providence) and we'll see about Sunday," Rask explained on a Zoom call with reporters Thursday afternoon. "Moving forward next week, I should be with the big guys."
How many games does Rask need in Providence to be ready for the NHL?
"Just one or two," he said. "It all depends how I feel tomorrow tracking the puck and whatnot. Physically I feel great. Obviously, it's been a while since game action, so we'll get tomorrow's game and see what happens after that. I'm confident it won't be an issue."
Rask's contract expired after last season. He had surgery to repair a torn hip labrum shortly after Boston's 2021 playoff run concluded. Rehab has gone very well for the Finnish netminder, and pain is not an issue for him right now.
"I feel great. The biggest issue for me was the catching of the joint and the pain that created. So that's gone, and it makes a huge difference," Rask said. "Every time I go to butterfly and get up, I don't have to think about it locking up on me again and creating that pain. So I feel great."
Rask noted that surgery was a necessity for him to play again.
"If I didn't decide to play anymore and I didn't want to pursue rehab, I didn't have to do the surgery. But since I wanted to have a good quality of life and try to play hockey again, it was basically the only option," Rask said. "It is nice, now, I've been practicing quite a bit for a while with high volume and the pain doesn't come after practices like it used to, and that's the biggest difference."
The Bruins already have two goalies in Linus Ullmark and rookie Jeremy Swayman. Rask returning will change up the goalie rotation and could lead to Swayman going down to Providence unless the B's want to carry three goalies on the NHL roster.
"I want to help out. I'm not looking for a big contract, like I've said before. I just want to come and help out the guys, and do my part that way," Rask said.
"Obviously, people from the outside are looking at controversy, and there's always going to be controversy when you play in Boston. But I think so far, sharing the net with (Linus Ullmark) and (Jeremy Swayman) there in practice, we get along great and it's been good. I just want to help out as much as I can and be up for the task."