BOSTON - The Bruins announced on Friday morning that goaltender Tuukka Rask has been granted a leave of absence to deal with a personal matter. General manager Don Sweeney addressed the media following practice at Warrior Ice Arena and said that the leave is not health related and asked that the veteran netminder be given some privacy over the coming days.
"I think it's important for everyone to respect his privacy and allow him to deal with it for the next few days," said Sweeney. "We just felt that it was important [to address] that he'll be away from the team for a few days. If we have an update, accordingly, we certainly will [announce it]."
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who has been teammates with Rask since the Finland native broke into the league in 2007, said the team is in full support of Rask and is "looking forward to having him back."
"It's obviously very important," said Chara. "We support his decision and hopefully it's gonna be solved soon and he's gonna be back with us. Obviously we miss him. He's our teammate, he's our brother. He's been here for a long time.
"We all understand and respect his privacy. In his absence, we support him and think of him and we have to play without him."
Video: Chara reacts to Tuukka Rask news
In the meantime, Jaroslav Halak will be Boston's No. 1 goaltender. The backstop's Bruins career had been off to a stellar start before Thursday night's loss to Vancouver. Halak was leading the NHL with a .952 save percentage entering the game, but still ranks fourth (.936) after surrendering five goals on 19 shots to the Canucks. His 1.96 goals against average is second to Nashville's Pekka Rinne.
Sweeney said that the team would recall a goaltender from Providence after the P-Bruins game on Friday night. Cassidy, meanwhile, indicated that Halak is likely to start both games of the Bruins' back-to-back with Toronto and Vegas this weekend.
"He definitely starts tomorrow," said Cassidy. "It looks like he'll probably go back in Sunday, but generally I'll give you that on Saturday after the game probably."
With the news of Rask's absence, as well as some changing parts up front following the recall of center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson from Providence on Friday, Cassidy said his team must get into the proper mindset for Saturday's game with Toronto.
"Tomorrow we'll be focused on the Maple Leafs, business as usual," said Cassidy. "That will be the focus of the staff and the players. I'm sure different players that have different friendships will reach out to Tuukka and we'll go from there.
"But you lose some players during the year here and there. Teams are pretty good at getting dialed into business when it's time. That will be tomorrow."
Video: Cassidy speaks to media about Rask, JFK
In some positive news, defenseman Charlie McAvoy skated prior to Friday's practice for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on Oct. 18 in Edmonton. Sweeney revealed during his press conference that the second-year blue liner has been dealing with the effects of a concussion.
"Charlie was back on the ice briefly today," said Sweeney. "Charlie's timeline is such that he had vestibular issues in camp, but definitively coming out of the Edmonton game had a conversation with our doctors and our medical staff that had more concussive symptoms.
"At that point in time, we sent Charlie home. He's clearly been in protocol since and progressing. But again, until we have definitive answers on things, we like to continue to allow our medical staff to have the full and correct diagnosis.
"We're at the stage where he's making progress, but there's no timeline. He's back on the ice and continues to make progress, but we'll see where it goes."
Video: Sweeney speaks to media regarding Rask, McAvoy
Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) and Kevan Miller (hand) also skated before practice.
"Urho's in the same boat [as McAvoy]," said Sweeney. "Obviously he was concussed and has been back on the ice, hasn't joined the team yet, so hopefully that's the next stage if he doesn't have any setbacks."
"Kevan Miller's about three weeks out from his hand injury," added Sweeney. "He's making good progress, been on the ice repeatedly and now it's just a matter of when that's fully healed for him to go back in to play."
In an effort to add some pace through the middle of the ice, Forsbacka Karlsson was recalled from Providence for his second NHL stint. The 22-year-old made his NHL debut in the 2016-17 regular-season finale and has since played 67 games for the P-Bruins, notching 16 goals and 20 assists.
"Obviously it's a great feeling. This is where you want to be. It's just a great feeling," said Forsback Karlsson, who has a goal and three assists in nine games this season for Providence. "When I got called up earlier, I thought I was ready, too. Obviously I've got a little more experience this time, so you know more what to expect.
"But definitely ready and excited. You know the guys a little bit more, you've gone through a couple camps."
The former Boston University standout was a prime candidate - along with Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic - to take the third-line center role out of camp and joined the team for its trip to China in September. But ultimately Forsbacka Karlsson was assigned to Providence to work on his strength and compete level.
"There's areas that I don't think are the top of his list of strengths. It's something he's continuing to build on," said Sweeney. "He's a responsible player, he can makes plays, he can skate and cover ice. Really he hasn't been on the ice for goals against, he hasn't been a defensive liability - from that standpoint, a very responsible player, two-way player, and has the attributes offensively and the ability to skate.
"Now he just has to get comfortable in those situations and understand the compete level that it takes to play in the National Hockey League. If it's not there and he's not ready, he won't be here long."
Video: Forsbacka Karlsson reacts to being recalled
Cassidy confirmed that the 2015 second-round pick will man the middle on Boston's third line against Toronto, with Danton Heinen on the left wing. Forsbacka Karlsson's right wing is still to be determined, but David Backes and Anders Bjork both took rushes there during Friday's practice.
"We liked his training camp. We didn't feel he was ready or he would have started here," said Cassidy. "But made some plays, he didn't get scored on. We wanted to work on certain things…up the compete level, in terms of winning pucks.
"I thought he had a decent start, had a personal matter to take care of back home [in Sweden a couple weeks ago]. He got back, got his feet under him and we made a decision to give it a go here. We'll see how it plays out for him. Hopefully he's up to the challenge."