Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced Friday that the team had granted goalie Tuukka Rask a leave of absence to attend to personal matters. Sweeney indicated that they expected Rask to be away from the team for a few days but left the door open for an extended absence. He also said the issues were not health-related and asked that the media and fans respect his goalie’s privacy.
“Tuukka is going to take a few days to address a personal matter,” said Sweeney. “It is not health-related. So I think it’s important for everybody to respect his privacy and let him deal with it for the next few days.”
Speculation regarding Rask, who gave up three goals on 14 shots in relief of Jaro Halak Thursday in an 8-5 loss to the Canucks, began when the team started practice 20 minutes late Friday and when Rask was nowhere to be found once the team finally took the ice. Head coach Bruce Cassidy was also seen by the bench before practice finally did begin, having an extended conversation with captain Zdeno Chara and alternate captain Patrice Bergeron.
Following practice, both Bergeron and Chara expressed their support for their longtime teammate.
“I’m not going into any details, It’s a personal issue,” Bergeron told the media after practice Friday. “Right here we’re behind him and supporting him 100 percent. All I can say is that he’s a great friend and we’re all here for him.”
“We respect that,” Chara said. “It’s obviously very important that we support his decision and hopefully it’s going to be solved soon and he’s going to be back with us. Obviously, we miss him. He’s our teammate, he’s our brother. He’s been here for a long time. But, like I said, we all understand and want to respect his privacy. In his absence, we support him and we think of him. We’re looking forward to having him back.”
Cassidy expects his team not to be distracted and to be ready for a busy weekend as they welcome in the Maple Leafs Saturday night and then the Vegas Golden Knights the following night.
“I think tomorrow, we’ll be focused on the Maple Leafs, business as usual,” Cassidy said. “That will be the focus of the staff and the players. I’m sure different players with different friendships will reach out to Tuukka and we’ll go from there with that. We lose some players here and there during the year and teams are pretty good at getting dialed into business when it’s time to and that will be tomorrow.”
Cassidy also said the plan now is for Jaro Halak to start both games, which will make it three straight for the new Bruins goaltender who is 4-1-0-2 with a 1.96 GAA and .936 save percentage.
A habitually slow starter, Rask had another brutal October going 3-3-0 with a 3.15 GAA and .902 save percentage. He’s 1-1-0 with a 2.68 GAA and .897 save percentage and 4-4-0 with a 3.05 GAA and .901 save percentage overall.
Last week, in a one-on-one interview with our Bruins and NHL insider Jimmy Murphy, Rask acknowledged not being able to fix his slow starts but seemed optimistic that, just as he did last season, he could recover again and have a great season. He also said that he welcomed the competition Jaro Halak – who until Thursday had been almost perfect – brings.
“I think competition is good in general in every position,” said Rask. “Goaltending is no different from that and no one’s going to take their position for granted. I think it’s great. He just pushes you to be better and earn your spot, at least that’s what I’ve always thought.
“I think it’s a luxury to have on a team a 1A and 1B with both goalies pulling the load and then who knows what can happen in the playoffs. Hopefully, both can contribute there and make it a long run.”