Chiarelli: 'Stage is set' for Rask to earn Bruins starting job

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Chiarelli: 'Stage is set' for Rask to earn Bruins starting job

WILMINGTON, Mass. It can be rare that a player and professional hockey organization are 100-percent on the same page when it comes to contract time, but thats where the Bruins and Tuukka Rask find themselves.

Rask has agreed in principle on a one-year deal with the Bruins worth 3.5 million that gives the 25-year-old goaltender his big chance to prove that hes a starting NHL goaltender capable of surpassing 50 games played while remaining healthy and productive.

Rask has never played more than 45 games in a year, and he tired noticeably at the tail end of the playoffs in 2009-10, so the one-year deal was pursued by both the player and the Bruins. But that season Rask also led the NHL with a 1.97 goals against average and a .931 save percentage, and has shown glimpses of what can do when handed the starting gig.

Bs general manager Peter Chiarelli said that longer-term deals were never really discussed, and instead Rask wants to prove he can be the man before he gets paid like the man.

Look, 3.5 million isnt exactly chump change, but weve all seen the goaltending carousel of contracts thats been going on lately, said Chiarelli. He wants to prove that hes the No. 1 goalie for the Bruins for a long time. This was the easiest way to set the stage for that.

Hes been a really good goalie for us, but for one year he hasnt been the No. 1 goalie. The stage is set for him and well see where it takes us.

Instead Rask will prove to himself and the Bruins that his conditioning and health can stay intact with a full starters workload at the NHL level, and Chiarelli said that its the Bruins intention to extend Rask further when theyre allowed to on January 1. Theres always the Rask risk on a one-year deal that the CBA climate while change and he could go from RFA to UFA when the one-year deal expires after next season.

But Chiarelli said hes operating under a philosophy of keeping a Stanley Cup-winning team together rather than anticipating whats coming down the pipe when the next labor deal is settled. That also comes into play given the notion that Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic and Rask are all up for contracts after the 2012-13 season.

But the Bruins GM made no bones about his No. 1 priority with the Bruins: keeping his hockey club intact.

I think its a risk both sides are willing to take. In an ideal world this is a deal that we look to extend come January, said Chiarelli. There are seven or eight players up for contracts every year and I think thats a healthy cycle to go through. Believe it or not, Im trying to be cautious and Im trying to keep the team together.

I dont mind having a cluster of players that we need to make decisions on. We have a bunch of RFAs and well deal with them appropriately. It will be nice to see how the new CBA will work, and well know before we sign the restricted free agents.

The Bruins will officially announce the Rask signing on July 1, and Rask should officially be made available to describe his burning desire to prove he can be the man behind the mask in Boston.

B's determined to 'keep it going' during good offensive run

B's determined to 'keep it going' during good offensive run

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- The Bruins are going through a nice, little bountiful stretch of offense right now after a half-season of struggle.

The Bruins are averaging more than three goals per game in their last 12 contests, and have scored a whopping 22 goals in their last six games including dropping six scores on the Flyers Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. Combine that with the 7-for-25 performance on the power play during the month of January, and things are finally starting to catch up with a Bruins team that was all shoot/no score for months of frustrating hockey this season.

“If you want sustained success then you have to be good defensively, but you also have to score some goals. That’s definitely part of it and we have to keep it going,” said Patrice Bergeron, who has four goals and eight points in his last nine games after struggling out of the starting gate. “You’re not going to get rewarded every night like we did [against the Flyers], but you have to find that consistency where you’re close to having that every night.”

One thing nobody should expect out of the B’s, however, is to get outside of what they do well now that they’ve started slapping some numbers up on the board. Instead the Bruins are intent on their bedrock of disciplined defense and sensational goaltending with the added offense just making it much tougher to beat them these days.

“I don’t know if we can stand here and say we’re going to sustain that we’re scoring lots of goals. I think what we need to sustain here is winning more games than we lose,” said Claude Julien. “That’s what we’ve got to sustain. Whether it’s a 1-0 or 2-1 game, or it’s a 5-2 or 5-3 game it doesn’t really matter. It’s about winning hockey games much more than it’s about how much you scored, and how much you don’t score.

“Overall when I look at the scoring chances we’re giving up per game, that doesn’t seem to have changed. Goals allowed may have changed a little bit lately, but overall I think we’ve been very steady in that area [of defense].”

So now the Bruins will again be looking for that ideal balance of offense/defense when they take the ice against the Islanders on Monday afternoon for their second straight matinee at TD Garden. 

Morrow has 'confident feeling' as he readies to jump into B's lineup

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Morrow has 'confident feeling' as he readies to jump into B's lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It’s been a long month of bag skates and lonely practices for Bruins defenseman Joe Morrow.

That’s about to change thanks to injuries to both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller, who are both not expected to be able to play against the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon at TD Garden. That means Morrow will be in the B’s lineup for the first time since a Dec. 12 win over the Montreal Canadiens, a span of 16 consecutive B’s games that the 24-year-old has been watching from the press box.

Morrow skated in a pairing with John-Michael Liles in Sunday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena prior to Monday’smatinee, and obviously he’s looking forward to getting back into games given this season’s sporadic practice schedule.

“[Playing well after sitting for long stretches] isn’t necessarily something you want to be good at, but if you are good at then it’s a good tool to have in your bag. It’s a confident feeling that I’ll be able to come in [and play well],” said Morrow, who has an assist and a minus-3 rating in 13 games for the Black and Gold this season. “I’ve stayed in good shape and worked hard in practice, and that’s all I can do up until this point.

“Put simply, [this year’s compacted schedule] is exhausting. Countless times I’ve skated by myself, and anybody would tell you there’s nothing harder than skating by yourself on a sheet of ice. Mentally and physically it’s just exhausting. There haven’t been many practices and there haven’t been many game-type situations in the practices we do have. Skating with the whole team is almost like a pregame skate scenario. But you’re still skating every day, so it’s putting it upon yourself to go out there and stay ready for things.”

The one issue for Morrow, a former first round pick, over the last couple of seasons has been maintaining a high level of play once he draws his way into the lineup. It feels like there’s a drop-off in his play once he’s played a few games in a row whether it’s physical mistakes or mental lapses in his play, and that’s something he wants to avoid when given an opportunity to suit up.

“I feel like when I have played this year that I’ve been quite consistent and that I’ve played well,” said Morrow, the last remaining part of the 2013 Tyler Seguin trade still in a Bruins uniform. “I’m just in a situation that the cards are playing out the way that they are, so it depends on how many games I get whether it’s one, two, 30 or however many games are left [in the season]. It’s realistically entirely up to me. If I can shake the rust out in the first couple of shifts and start from there, it’s going to be a big positive in my book. It’s the really the only option I have left now.”

Given that Colin Miller began skating on his own on Sunday morning, it might not be a very big window for Morrow to impress upon the coaches just how badly he wants to play. But one would expect he’s going to bring his best on Monday against the Isles with the hopes that it will be somebody else sitting up in the press box when it once again becomes a D-man numbers game for the 7-8 players for six lineup spots.