While the Bruins have been pretty consistent about giving Tuukka Rask some rest in back-to-back situations over the last few months, the time for rest may be over.
With just 11 games left in the regular season, it appears Rask will be starting both ends of a back-to-back against two important division rivals. He'll definitely play tonight in Toronto against the Maple Leafs, as the third-place B's hope to build their lead over the fourth-place Leafs to five points. And it also sounds like he'll be in goal Tuesday night at TD Garden when Boston hosts second-place Ottawa, a team that's beaten the Bruins badly twice this season and whom they trail by four points in the Atlantic standings.
And Rask -- who's recently played like a goalie who needs a challenge, having posted a subpar .899 save percentage and 2.80 goals-against average in his last six games -- says he's ready.
"Of course," he said Sunday at the team's practice facility in Brighton. "I think at this time of year you don't want to take time off . . . Every game matters and you have to be ready to play. We've got a big game in Toronto and try to take care of business there, and then we come back and play Ottawa and go day-by-day. That's the best approach you can take.
"[Toronto and Ottawa] are good challenges. In order to be one of those good teams, you have to beat the good teams.”
Coach Bruce Cassidy has been up front about his goalie choices well ahead of games, and that didn't change after Sunday's practice when he hinted Rask was likely to play both Monday and Tuesday. The Bruins are facing a huge four-game week, with games against Toronto, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and the Islanders, and it appears backup goalie Anton Khudobin will get the call against the fading Lightning.
"Generally in back-to-backs we've gone with both goalies, but because we just had a couple of days off and Tuukka's workload wasn't [heavy], we might change it this week to be honest with you,” Cassidy said Sunday. "I'm not going to get ahead of it. Would Tuukka play all four? I highly doubt that, but where we slot in Anton might change from the predictable way that we've been doing it.”
That's a good thing for a Bruins team recognizing the importance of the next couple of games against the teams directly above and below them in the standings, and ready to put a bigger share of the responsibility in Rask's lap.