Tuukka Rask returned from the Czech Republic as the bearer of good news.
No he isnt ready to pronounce the NHL lockout over. But the 25-year-old Finnish goaltender did pronounce himself perfectly healthy after his 13-game stint for HC Plzen.
Rask had a slight scare when his groin muscles tightened on him in first game with his new team back in October, but he was able to play regularly after that without any hint of problems. That was a relief after Rask was knocked out for the final six weeks and 19 games of last years season with a strained groinabdomen and didnt get into any playoff games after he was medically cleared to resume action.
Rask was able to play at a very high level, posting a .936 save percentage and 1.85 goals against average for Plzen before leaving at the end of last week.
"I feel great physically," Rask said. "It was a good experience for me. It was pretty fast-paced and offense oriented with a lot of odd-man rushes, 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s . . . so I got plenty of work. It was exactly what I needed to do to get ready while waiting for things to get worked out here."
The Bruins goaltender said hes back in Boston for good until theres a decision made on the 2012-13 NHL season one way or the other. Hell be rested and ready if a deal is done in the next six weeks and Rask might just return to the Czech Republic if the nightmare scenario plays out with the season being cancelled in mid-January.
The Czech action was good for Rask, who signed a one-year, 3.5 million deal with the Bruins to prove he could be their franchise goaltender capable of playing 55-60 games and doing it while performing like he did in his 2009-10 rookie season when he led the NHL in save percentage (.931) and goals against average (1.97).
I came back because I think this is around the time when the decision will get made one way or the other, said Rask. I didnt want to have to rush back to the United States and jump right into training camp if I stayed over in Europe. I got some games in and now I can rest up a bit hopefully for a season.
It stands to reason that the NHL and NHLPA will either come to an agreement in the next few weeks for a shortened season followed by a full round of playoffs, or the NHL Board of Governors could start the clock on potentially cancelling the season with a Dec. 5 meeting in New York City.
Rask said he enjoyed playing against David Krejci and Andrew Ference in the Czech League, and that it was a nice change of pace from Ilves Tampere and the Finnish League he played in as a teenager. Thats the same Tampere that just signed Bs forward Daniel Paille.
I played in Finland when I was younger and I go back to there in the summertime, so I wanted to try something a little different, Rask said. It was definitely the right choice for me.
Now Rask is back in Boston skating with a handful of his Bruins teammates and waiting things out just like other hockey fans all around the world.