Rask won't be rushed into action
Young goalie to be handled with care
SUNRISE, Fla. - The Bruins need go no further back in their history than to Hannu Toivonen to understand the pitfalls of fast-tracking young goalies.
Toivonen, once projected as the Bruins' goalie of the future, disappointed in 2006-07 as a 22-year-old NHLer (3-9-1, 4.23 goals-against average, .875 save percentage), leading to his offseason trade to St. Louis for Swedish prospect Carl Soderberg.
One of the organization's biggest concerns was a similar downward trajectory would take place with 20-year-old puck-stopper Tuukka Rask if the Finnish phenom were rushed to the NHL. To stave off this fear, the Bruins decided that Rask would spend 2007-08 in Providence, where he could adjust to the North American game, put on some bulk, and craft the mental strength required of NHL netminders.
But with Manny Fernandez (back, knee) placed on ice indefinitely, the Bruins have had to tab Rask as Tim Thomas's backup. And given the lack of available goaltending depth, Rask might be with the big club longer than once projected.
Naturally, that's just fine with Rask.
"I don't know what they think. That's not my job to do," Rask, who served as Thomas's No. 2 last night against the Florida Panthers, said of management's thoughts for his development. "My job is to do my best."
Rask believes he's ready for the NHL, citing his wins over Toronto and Philadelphia in his first two starts. But because of several reasons (his age and his $3.2 million cap hit), the Bruins have been wary of rushing him in his rookie season.
"It's not always that simple that if you're good enough, you should be in the NHL," said Rask. "There are players who should be in the NHL and aren't. It can be complicated sometimes."
The positive sign for the Bruins is that during his time in Boston - three recalls so far - Rask has backstopped the team to wins and given Thomas two much-needed breathers. Both goals he allowed against the Maple Leafs were redirected by his teammates (a puck off Glen Metropolit's skate and a shot off Aaron Ward's stick). Rask let in a bad-angle softie to Scottie Upshall in Monday's 6-3 win over the Flyers, but stopped 20 shots.
"Two wins," Rask said. "Why wouldn't I be happy?"
Alberts returnsAndrew Alberts, who suffered a head injury Monday courtesy of Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell, returned to the lineup last night. Alberts was paired with regular defense partner Dennis Wideman, skating 27 shifts for 21:19 of ice time in the Bruins' 4-3 victory.
"Good," said Alberts of his play. "Other than a couple bad turnovers."
Alberts felt nauseous after the hit and reported headaches and blurred vision, but he was not diagnosed with a concussion. Alberts did not take any of the tests - exertion, baseline, neuropsych - required of players who have suffered concussions before they can be cleared to play.
Alberts said he felt fortunate he didn't suffer more serious injuries.
Lucic sits againMilan Lucic participated in yesterday's morning skate and has been cleared to play, but the Bruins held out the rookie for precautionary reasons. Lucic suffered a concussion last Friday and has missed the last three games . . . In the third period, coach Claude Julien tweaked his bottom two lines. He elevated Vladimir Sobotka and Petteri Nokelainen to the third line alongside Peter Schaefer, dropping Phil Kessel and Brandon Bochenski to the fourth line to skate with Jeremy Reich. The moves worked as the third line had a physical presence, while Reich and Bochenski worked along the boards leading to Kessel's goal. "I wanted to balance the third and fourth line," said Julien. "Sobotka, I thought, had a tremendous game. Nokelainen, same thing. Reicher had some great chances. We tried to give those guys a little bit of experience on that line and it turned out that they played well. Then Phil, with Bochenski and Reicher, scored the winning goal." . . . Defenseman Matt Hunwick was the healthy scratch . . . General manager Peter Chiarelli and vice president Cam Neely are with the team. The Bruins practice today in Tampa, play the Lightning tomorrow, and are scheduled to practice in Tampa Sunday before flying to Long Island for Monday's matchup against the Islanders . . . The Panthers, who scored a 4-3 shootout win over the Capitals in Washington Wednesday, scrubbed their morning skate . . . The memorial service for former Bruin Tom Johnson, who died Nov. 21, will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Falmouth.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.