Rask feels 'great' after 13 games in Czech Republic

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Rask feels 'great' after 13 games in Czech Republic

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.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.