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Rask Gets First Preseason Game Under His Belt

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON Tuukka Rask was the last Bruin to get into preseason action, starting his first game between the pipes on Monday night at TD Garden.

The end result was a 3-1 for the Red Wings to mark the Bruins’ first loss of the preseason.

Just as the rest of the team has been using the exhibition games to tune up their play, Rask will do the same.

“Nice to get into a real game, and I definitely felt it, but you know, it’s good to get that first one under the belt and keep moving on,” said Rask, who stopped 21 of 24 shots.

How many games will it take for him to get his timing down?

“Hopefully not more than two,” Rask smiled. “But you know, it’s just a matter of getting out there. You know you can stop the puck, but it’s just a matter of getting out there and getting a feel for the flow of the game and stuff like that, so I’ll be alright.”

While Head Coach Claude Julien is more focused on the young defensemen vying for roles in front of Rask, the netminder is more focused on his own play.

“You know, at this point, I just try to focus on myself and getting my game where I feel like it needs to be, just with the feel and everything,” said Rask. “And today I thought that timing was sometimes a little off and then angles were a little off at times, just like, not natural all the time, so those are the things I need to work on.”

“But I think in the bigger picture, too, and looking at the breakouts, I thought we did a pretty good job today and communication was pretty good.”

Boston deployed a defense on Monday night that included Torey Krug, Zach Trotman, Linus Arnesson, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow and Colin Miller. Krug was the most veteran with his 160 games of NHL experience. He and Trotman serves as the top defensive pair in the Bruins’ past two preseason games.

Miller comes in next with 88 NHL games, Trotman with 29 and Morrow with 15.

Communication will be key between Rask and the blueliners to start the season.

“I thought today was pretty good — first period, I had to handle [the puck] a couple of times. First one of the day, I made a bad pass but after that I made a couple good passes, a couple guys talked to me where they want the puck to be,” he said of adjustments with his defensemen. “You know, I think they did a good job in front of the net clearing some sticks and players.”

Rask’s first goal given up came about seven minutes into the second period, when the Wings had extending time in the zone and Drew Miller let off a quick wrister that beat the netminder from the right circle. It was the first time Boston had given up the first goal all preseason.

Detroit made it 2-0 midway through the period after a miscue. Arnesson and Morrow — both left-shot defensemen — ended up on the ice at the same time during a change. Tomas Jurco took advantage of the lost coverage and sped away, drawing a penalty from Arnesson before he put the puck past Rask.

Early in the third period, Krug was in a battle with Jurco in front of Rask. Jurco bumped into the Bruins’ netminder as a point shot found its way through.

“I made the original save, I just couldn’t handle it — I think that’s one of those situations that they probably look at in the regular season,” said Rask, of the Coach’s Challenge that will make its debut this regular season for goalie interference.

“He was fine — I think that, again, that third goal is probably something that I’ll look at, could be a reviewable during the league, during the regular season,” said Julien. “I’m going to look at it a little bit closer, but some of those shots were really top shelf, they were good goals. It’s his first game.”

“I think he’s our No. 1 goalie and we’re not here to evaluate him, we’re here to evaluate the others. For him, it’s to find his groove. First game and no doubt he’ll feel even better in the next one that he plays.”

Apart from the goals allowed — and the fact that the Bruins couldn’t get past Jimmy Howard until a 6-on-4 tally from Loui Eriksson with 50.7 to go in the game — Rask had positive takeaways.

“Today, we played a pretty good defensive game — I mean, a couple of breakdowns, those things happen, but as far as protecting our net and getting the puck out, I thought we did a pretty good job,” said Rask. “And a lot of times last year that was poor from us, we were just scrambling in our own end and today, there was that one [mistake] in our own end which end up costing us a goal, but other than that, pretty good.”

“I think were evaluating more the back end than Tuukka,” said Julien. “We had some young D’s here and we’ve got some spots to fill and spots to win and spots to lose, so we’re looking closely at those guys on the back end so that’s the evaluation process.”

“We know what kind of goaltender he is — he’s not the guy that we need to talk about and start worrying about.”

As Rask fine-tunes his play, so will the rest of the group.

“Obviously it’s not the outcome we wanted, but I thought for the most part our legs were going, we created a lot of good chances and you’ve got to take the positives out of that game,” said Chris Kelly, who had a team-high five shots on goal and formed the night’s best line for Boston with Max Talbot and new addition Joonas Kemppainen.

“The scoring chances we had, they were there — we just didn’t capitalize on them. I think you can see guys starting to find their game again, but it’s a long time off to jump back in and expect to be perfect is kind of unrealistic, but I think guys are starting to get better.”

The Bruins have two more preseason games remaining, both of them on the road — Wednesday, Sept. 30 in New York against the Rangers and Friday, Oct. 2 in D.C. against the Washington Capitals. They’ll then open their season on Oct. 8 at TD Garden against Winnipeg.

“The last couple of days is really when you see your legs starting to feel a lot better,” said Kelly. “You’re starting to get into the routine. You go through it every year. It doesn’t matter how much you skate or how much you work out. It’s just… it’s different. Camp is different. It’s a lot of volume.”

“The play just picks up that much more and so does the intensity and you know, it’s good. I’m sort of starting to figure out preseason. I think there’s a reason why preseason is so scramble early on, because you’re wanting to get your legs under you so you’re skating up and down the ice and that preseason gets going and you kind of find your groove and back to the rhythm.”

“I think as you get closer to the end, whether it’s the guys that are still around which are obviously the guys that should be around, but then at the same time, you see certain guys separate themselves from others,” said Julien. “There’s no doubt that it give us a better opportunity to evaluate certain guys that are still in the running here.”

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