“He’s just a little under the weather right now,” Head Coach Claude Julien said following the skate.
Rask was set to meet the team on the plane and travel to New York City with them in advance of Wednesday’s night matchup with the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
With Rask ill, Jeremy Smith was called up from the Providence Bruins on an emergency basis and was also set to travel with the team.
Smith and Jonas Gustavsson served as the goalie tandem during Tuesday’s practice.
“Jeremy will make the trip — we’re not taking any chances at this stage,” said Julien.
“It’s nice to get the call,” said Smith, who has compiled a 7-3-1 record in 11 games with Providence. “It was nice to practice with the guys out there and get a feel for the puck and just taking it hour by hour.”
Smith joined the P-Bruins when Malcolm Subban suffered a fractured larynx on Feb. 6. He spent the majority of the season assigned to the AHL’s Iowa Wild, where he appeared in 23 games.
“It’s been a wild ride, but you know, you’ve just got to roll with the punches,” said Smith. “Really, it was a good thing for me to go to Iowa. I was able to play a lot, learn and grow as a goalie and it’s just good to be back.”
Vatrano Gets the Call
In another transaction, the Bruins recalled Frank Vatrano from Providence to join the team on the trip to New York.
Vatrano was with the team for the first half of the California trip on an emergency basis. This recall marks the Bruins’ second regular recall since the trade deadline (each NHL team gets four regular recalls post-deadline), with Noel Acciari marking the first.
“Frankie’s up and that’s a regular call-up so we’ll see what we decide to do with him, but he’s also making the trip,” Julien confirmed.
Since Vatrano was assigned last week, he suited up in two more games for Providence and tacked on to more goals to bring the AHL leading scorer’s total to 33 in 33 games.
“I’m just here to make the best of the opportunity and if my number’s called, my number’s called,” said Vatrano. “I’m here to be a good teammate, in or out of the lineup, so I’m here for more experience, and I’m excited to be here.”
“Now we decided to call him up as a regular call-up and we know he’s scoring a lot of goals over there,” said Julien. “And I think he’s got, what? six with us here, if I’m correct, and there were three in one game.”
Vatrano appeared in 30 games on his previous stint with Boston, recording six goals and one assist for seven points.
“He’s scoring some goals here, but certainly not at the level he does in the American Hockey League, but our goal is hopefully to get him to do that here,” Julien said. “So a guy who comes out of college, should have the ability to develop a little bit in a positive way, versus giving him too much and sometimes that kind of slows down the development of a player when he’s in over his head, so we sent him back at one point to play back there and he’s done a good job. Call him back up again and we’ll see what happens from there.”
Vatrano took his time with Providence in stride, further developing his game.
“I went down there to get some confidence back in my offensive game,” said Vatrano. “Play more minutes — and I got a lot of minutes down there — played power play, first two lines, so I think going down there has really helped me get to this position now, getting another shot at playing in the NHL.”
“Playing in the AHL has been a good development for me and I accomplished a lot down there, but then again, Boston thought it was my turn to come up here, so I’m here to make the most out of the opportunity.”
While Vatrano is focused on bringing more consistency to his game, if he gets his shot in the lineup, Julien would be looking for a jolt to his offense.
“Some secondary scoring,” Julien said, of what Vatrano could offer. “I think our top two lines have been producing on a fairly regular basis, but we need a little bit of secondary scoring here and if he gets in there, hopefully he has some scoring and he can give us some of that.”
On the Road Again
Starting with the Rangers, the Bruins will play five of their next six games on the road.
The road has been good to them all season, aside from coming up empty points-wise in California.
“We’re confident in our road game,” said defenseman Adam McQuaid. “We didn’t play our best hockey, and we didn’t play our worst hockey on the road. We had our moments where we were in games and we had opportunities.”
“We’re still staying positive and just king of moving on from game to game, and putting all of our focus on [Wednesday] night.”
The Bruins failed to accomplish what they wanted to on the road trip, falling to San Jose (3-2), Anaheim (4-0) and Los Angeles (2-1). That should be motivation enough.
This is a group that has bounced back well. They haven’t lost more than three games in a row all season.
“Consistency. That’s the thing — we’ve been fairly consistent,” said Julien. “We haven’t had the big dips and that’s also important. Hopefully we can end [this dip on Wednesday].”
Nine Games to Go
Starting with the Rangers, the Bruins have nine games remaining in the regular season.
Though they have dropped three straight, they are still part of the top three in the Atlantic Division with 86 points. Tampa Bay is right above them with 87 points and will play its game in hand on Tuesday night against Detroit (83 points), while Florida remains atop the division with 89 points.
The Bruins will meet the Panthers on Thursday night at TD Garden on the second end of their back-to-back to finish out the season series.
With nine games left, is the Bruins’ bench boss pleased with where the team is at?
“Not pleased where we are, because we’ve lost three in a row — but it’s not like we’re crumbling here,” said Julien. “We’ve just got to fix a few things, give up a little bit less as far as scoring chances if we want to be better and also, bury the ones that we have.”
“I think the biggest thing on that [California] road trip was our inability to bury the chances that we had.”
Before the Black & Gold dropped three games to the top three teams in the Pacific Division, there was much to like about their post-deadline 5-0-2 run. But at this time of year, they need to find ways to turn any solid efforts into points.
“You’re never going to be satisfied — you’re always looking for more,” said Julien. “But at the same time, I think when you look at our team from the start of the season to now, it’s improved, so there’s something good that’s been going on that this team has improved.”
“The one thing you can’t do, is we can’t use comparisons, you know. Every year, you have different players, different teams, and you can’t compare. You analyze your team with what you’ve got and where you’re at at this point and I think there’s been a lot of progress from individuals and also from a team perspective. “
“We’re heading in the right direction and we also know that we need to be better. Moving forward, if we plan on having a decent playoff run here, we’ve got to be ready to be better.”
Practice Lines 3/22
Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—Lee Stempniak
White Jerseys: Loui Eriksson—David Krejci—David Pastrnak
Gray Jerseys: Matt Beleskey—Ryan Spooner—Brett Connolly—Jimmy Hayes
Merlot Jerseys: Landon Ferraro—Frank Vatrano—Noel Acciari—Tyler Randell
*Chris Kelly skated prior to practice for about a half hour with Bruins Skating Coach Kim Brandvold.
Practice Defense Pairs 3/22
Zdeno Chara—Kevan Miller
John-Michael Liles—Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug—Adam McQuaid
Joe Morrow—Zach Trotman
Goalies: Jonas Gustavsson, Jeremy Smith**
**Tuukka Rask did not practice, but Julien said that he would be traveling to New York, along with the other two goaltenders.