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.

Blakely: Celtics make a healthy choice in standing pat at the deadline

Blakely: Celtics make a healthy choice in standing pat at the deadline

BOSTON -- For the second year in a row, the NBA trade deadline has come and gone with the Boston Celtics making no moves.
 
The Celtics were focused on trying to land either Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George, but Boston’s efforts never gained momentum in the final hours leading up to Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.

And while there were a handful of potential deals that would have made Boston slightly better, that improvement -- and the cost attached to it -- was just more than Ainge and the Celtics were willing to pay. 
 
And so they hit the final stretch of the season with a roster that – for now at least – looks identical to what they had at the start of the season with one difference --health. 
 
Most of this season, the Celtics have had multiple players out with injuries or various ailments. Currently, Avery Bradley (right Achilles) is the lone Celtic dealing with a significant injury. 
 
And after Bradley practiced some on Thursday, there’s a chance that he might be on the floor Friday night at Toronto. 
 
But there is no question that a significant segment of Celtics Nation is disappointed that Boston didn’t engineer a trade of some sort.
 
“We’re trying to upgrade our team,” said Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “But it is a delicate balance between short-term goals and long-term goals. Obviously, both are very important. We’re excited where we are on a long-term basis. And this year we didn’t make any trades. Last year we didn’t make any trades.”
 
But in standing pat a year ago, the Celtics solidified their salary cap space to where they could have offered a pair of max contracts to Al Horford – which they did – as well as Kevin Durant who met with Boston but ultimately decided to sign with Golden State. 
 
And by not including their first-round pick last season, the Celtics have Jaylen Brown who is one of the better rookies in this year’s class. 
 
“So we’re happy with the direction that we’re moving,” Ainge said. 
 
But standing pat was not on the agenda for the teams surrounding Boston in the East.
 
Boston’s inability to strike a deal is in sharp contrast to what teams surrounding them did during this trade season. 
 
The Cleveland Cavaliers are the team Boston and the rest of the East are chasing. They acquired Kyle Korver earlier this month, a player who ranks among the NBA’s all-time great 3-point shooters. 
 
Washington added Bojan Bogdanovic from Brooklyn today, providing some much-needed firepower for a Wizards second unit that ranks among the NBA’s lowest scoring groups. 
 
Toronto recently traded for Orlando’s Serge Ibaka, giving the Raptors a defensive-oriented big man who can stretch the floor. 
 
Also today, the Atlanta Hawks picked up Ersan Illyasova from Philadelphia, which should help them space the floor better.
 
Each of those teams addressed a very specific need, something the Celtics were hoping to do. 
 
But more than a player, the Celtics could benefit from a roster with improved health. 
 
The team’s preferred starting five -- Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson -- has a 15-6 record this season. To put that in perspective, that’s a winning percentage of .714 which would be tops in the East and third overall in the NBA for this season. 
 
And with most of the players seemingly back to full strength health-wise now, it’s understandable to some extent why Ainge would be willing to stick with this group for the rest of the season. 
 
“As you’ve been watching lately, we’ve been winning a lot of games with everybody,” Ainge said. “Players ten through fifteen contributing to our wins. We like the depth of the team, we like the youth of the team, we like the energy and enthusiasm of the team and I’m very anxious and excited to watch in the second half.”
 
But just like when they stood pat last year, the decision puts the onus on the players and the coaching staff to step their game up. 

“I roll with the guys in this locker room until something changes,” Isaiah Thomas said prior to the trade deadline. “I always mean that.”
 
Said Jae Crowder: “We have to take care of what we can control and that’s night-in and night-out, try to get wins.”

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis hit three-run homers and left-hander Brian Johnson started and pitched two scoreless innings to help the Red Sox win their spring training opener, 9-6, over Northeastern University on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Johnson, who made one spot start in his MLB debut with the Red Sox in 2015 but then was derailed by injuries and anxiety issues last season, struck out three and walked one Thursday. He's expected to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 5-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts in 2016.

Moreland, the left-handed hitting first baseman signed to a one-year deal after spending his first seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, and Travis, a right-handed hitting first base prospect coming back from knee surgery last season, each hit three-run homers in a six-run third inning.

Pablo Sandoval, attempting to reclaim the third-base job after missing nearly all of last season after surgery on his left shoulder, went 1-for-2 with a double. 

The Red Sox open Grapefruit League play Friday afternoon when they host the New York Mets at JetBlue Park.