WILMINGTON — Jonas Gustavsson made his first appearance at Bruins’ informal practice on Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena.
The goaltender will be attending training camp with Boston on a professional tryout (PTO). Camp opens with off-ice testing on Thursday.
General Manager Don Sweeney confirmed that Gustavsson would be at camp when he spoke with reporters on Sept. 10 before heading to Buffalo for the Prospects Challenge.
Gustavsson sported the Spoked-B practice jersey on the ice, with the rest of his gear still in Detroit’s red and white. The goalie spent the past three seasons in the Red Wings organization, suiting up in 41 NHL games for Detroit and serving as Jimmy Howard’s backup.
“It’s a new experience,” Gustavsson said of entering camp on a tryout for the first time in his career. “No matter if you have a contract, a tryout or whatever, you’ve always got to have the mentality that you’re going out there and you’re going to try to become a better goalie every day - and that’s not gonna change just because I don’t have that real contract.”
“I’m just gonna take it day by day and try to learn something and work as hard as I can.”
Gustavsson isn’t exactly sure how the agreement came about between his agent and the Bruins, and who was the first to reach out.
“Either it was [the Bruins] or my agent — one of the two — that talked about it and then we came to the solution that it would be a good fit for me, and hopefully for Boston to have me here at the Training Camp,” he said. “I’m just excited to be here.”
Having played in 148 NHL games with the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, Gustavsson is no stranger to the Bruins.
“It’s always been a great organization,” he said. “Every time I played against them with Toronto and Detroit, it’s always been tough games and hopefully I don’t have to face them this year, because I always had a tough time here.”
“That’s one of the teams that’s always tough to play against, but it was always a lot of fun to play here ‘cause you know the building is great, the fans are great, so it was always an exciting game.”
“I’m just happy to be part of the training camp now and then we’ll go from there.”
The netminder answered questions from reporters as he sat in a stall designated for him right next to Tuukka Rask’s.
“Obviously I’ve seen him play a lot,” Gustavsson said of the Bruins starter. “I haven’t really talked to him that much, but I played against him and I’ve seen him in a lot of games so obviously I know he’s a really, really good goaltender.”
“That’s a lot of fun, too, you can always learn from players like that and hopefully that makes you become a better goalie, too ‘cause you’re pushing yourself. No matter who’s on the other end in a practice or in a game, you always want to try and beat him. Maybe you’re not going to beat Tuukka every day but that’s just the mentality you’ve got to have.”
“You’ve got to find something, a spark or something, that keeps you reaching for the next level and having Tuukka here and being able to start with this camp together with him, it’s just a good experience for me.”
While Rask is No. 1, there’s uncertainty heading into camp about who will be his No. 2.
Returning goalies Jeremy Smith and Malcolm Subban, who split the load in Providence last season, will both be vying for the backup role.
Zane McIntyre also has his sights set on the job, even if the North Dakota standout just signed his first contract with Boston in July and will be entering his first pro season.
The 30-year-old Gustavsson will certainly have experience on his side.
Each summer since 2009, he’s had a contract during the offseason. This summer, though, other free agents around the NHL are in the same situation as he is — entering training camp on a PTO. He won’t let his situation hinder his approach to camp.
“Yeah, that’s the league — we have a lot of young kids coming up pushing the older guys out — good guys, good players, so it’s a good competition,” said Gustavsson. “That means the league is going to get better and better that way. So once again, maybe sounds boring but you’ve got to have the mentality that you’re going to have to be better every day.”
“That’s something that I enjoy that’s a lot of fun, that really gets me going, you know, that’s why you want to come here and become better and show them that you can still play and that you belong in this league.”
Regardless of how camp plays out, Gustavsson is grateful for the opportunity with Boston.
“A tryout, that’s a new thing for me,” he said. “But I’m just going to come here and have some fun and make the most of it.”