Rask feels 'great' after 13 games in Czech Republic

591600.jpg

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.

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

new-england-patriots-helmets-121215_0.jpg

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)