BOSTON - Tuukka Rask did not have much of a choice. It was only practice, but the decision between leaving himself vulnerable to injury or vulnerable to allowing a goal was the same as it would have been in the middle of a game.
He was standing his ground.
Unfortunately for the Bruins ace netminder, the decision was costly.
During last Wednesday's practice at Warrior Ice Arena, Rask was on the wrong end of a high-speed collision with Anders Bjork in the crease. Rask got up wobbly and needed assistance while retreating to the dressing room and was later diagnosed with a concussion. The backstop missed the Bruins last two games as he proceeded through the NHL's concussion protocols.
"That's a tough play because the guy's driving and you have to respect the shot short-side so you're holding your ground," said Rask. "He was pushed in, so it's just a tough play…you're either exposing yourself to get scored on or you're exposing yourself to possibly get hit."
Video: Tuukka Rask speaks to the media
Rask escaped any major damage, however, and returned to practice on Tuesday in a limited fashion. If all goes according to plan, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said it is a "possibility" that Rask could be back between the pipes on Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden.
"It's been a good few days," said Rask, who has not had any prior diagnosed concussions. "Skated [Monday] a little bit, today ramped it up a little more. [I'll] go through the concussion computer test and get cleared and we'll talk tomorrow.
"If I feel good I'm gonna go out there. Why not, right? I just gotta pass that test. Hopefully my baseline wasn't too high."
During Tuesday's practice, Rask appeared to be moving well in the crease and reported no ill effects from the session, though he did sit out some of the more high-intensity battle drills towards the end of the session.
"No, not really," Rask said when asked if he practiced with any hesitations. "They didn't want me to do contact, whatever that means for a goalie. I stayed out of the last couple drills. But I didn't feel hesitant. I can't go out there and try to be too careful.
"The drills that we did were set up in a way that it was only shots. The chances of being run down are slim. [Wednesday] will be full tilt."
Rask said he battled through minor headaches, sensitivity to light, and some body-clock issues during the first few days after the collision, but was fortunate to not have any lingering symptoms.
"Luckily I didn't lose consciousness or anything," said Rask. "That helps and the doctors say, generally, if you haven't had too many of those [concussions] you bounce back quickly. If it happens at an older age you tend to bounce back quicker.
"First two days it was a little foggy, but turned the corner pretty quickly. The whole protocol thing with the league you have to be careful that you don't come back too early."
Those concussion protocols have been thrust into the spotlight over the last 24 hours after Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick was removed from Tuesday night's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs following a collision. One of the NHL's concussion spotters deemed it necessary for Quick to exit the game, but Quick never went through the protocol and returned to the game moments later.
"It's a fine line. The spotters, if they see something and they pull you out there's nothing you can do," said Rask. "You can be fine, but it doesn't help if you tell them you're fine and they still pull you out. It's a tough situation. The rules are the rules. We just have to go by them."
The situation for position players is far less intrusive. Even if the player is unnecessarily removed from the game, there are plenty of others to take his spot. If a goaltender is forced to leave, the backup is suddenly thrust into the game with little preparation.
"It's tough. LA went through it…clearly that's one that you hope they accelerate if the guy recovers quickly," said Cassidy. "It's a position where the other guy is coming in so cold - if it happens to one of your players…that's a tough one. I guess it's a work in progress."
Despite the complexities of the rules, Rask expressed his support for the importance the league has placed on preventing and recognizing head injuries.
"I like it. A lot of times you feel fine and you got out there and get a second hit and you take two steps back," said Rask. "Worst case you could ruin the rest of your life. It's good that they're being careful. Even though I felt fine a couple days after, there's no reason to rush it. You've got to think about life outside hockey."
- Kevan Miller (upper-body) practiced for the second consecutive day in a red non-contact jersey and could make a return to the lineup on Thursday against the Sharks."He's progressing well. He's going in a good direction," said Cassidy. "I've been wrong up here a few times with these, but he looks good for Thursday…but it's day-to-day."
- David Krejci (upper-body) missed his second consecutive practice and was set to be re-evaluated on Tuesday afternoon. "He's day-to-day as well. Getting re-evaluated today…a little more discomfort, so we'll have a better idea on him tomorrow," said Cassidy. "But obviously didn't practice, but a little better measuring stick for Thursday."