The fact that presumptive Boston Bruins starting goaltender Tuukka Rask has withdrawn from a game with a groin ailment twice in eight months will inevitably put him on everyone’s cautionary radar. Any case of repeat injury (or suspected injury) to the same part of one’s body will understandably do that.
With that being said, various reports have been swift to propitiate the initial firestorm of concern among Bruins buffs. Rask himself was quoted as saying that he “took a little rest just for precaution” when he started hurting in a Tuesday game with his temporary lockout employer in the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, agent Bill Zito told the Boston Globe that Rask will “Probably play Friday.”
A virtual lack of missed time means Rask’s outlook is nowhere near what it could have been under less-promising circumstances. It is a natural improvement from when he went down last season in a March 3 matinee bout with the New York Islanders and did not dress again for another 50 days, when he backed up Tim Thomas for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Furthermore, even if any problems recur in the near future, Rask will likely know to speak up and sit out as he did on Tuesday. It could also put a silver lining on the increasingly probable extension of the NHL lockout from a Bruins standpoint.
Rask, along with presumptive new backup Anton Khudobin, and most skaters ineligible for an AHL assignment have merely been doing what they need to for their own sake and, ultimately, their teams'. They have pursued authentic game action to ward off any rust induced by the extension of the NHL’s summer of 2012.
Injuries will happen regardless of what colors, crest and congregants a player is catering to. In terms of a player’s ability to perform for his NHL employer, if even a mild ailment must happen, the least disconcerting time for it is when there will be sufficient time to recover before that team engages in extramural action again.
As long as Rask averts an all but irrecoverable loss of skill or an ill-timed injured reserve a la last NHL season, there will be stability in the Bruins’ backstop brigade.
Khudobin, who has fared admirably with Providence in recent years, could emerge from his time in a KHL laden with locked-out NHLers all the more sharpened for his first start-to-finish campaign in Boston. In addition, Niklas Svedberg has just commenced his Providence stint and is already drawing stylistic comparisons to Thomas from his head coach and from opposing broadcasters.
But would the Bruins be prepared to confidently rotate that unripe tandem for the better part of the 2012-13 NHL season, even a shortened one? Not likely.
For a historical parallel, look no further than the last time an NHL campaign was partially eroded. When normal business resumed for 1994-95, rookie Blaine Lacher combined with Craig Billington and Vincent Riendeau―each of whom had played at least 100-plus games going in―to turn in an unspectacular year in the Boston crease.
But if Rask does as Zito indicated and proceeds without further incident, he will have scraped abundant ice chips over Tuesday’s scare.
The prospect of the current Bruins having to go without their now most seasoned and leaned-on netminder for any significant period of the coming campaign is only a visible possibility. It could happen, but it is not nearly the menacing threat one may have initially deemed it to be.