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Rask Played Through Torn Labrum, Set for Offseason Surgery

Netminder, expecting five- to six-month recovery, wants to continue to play, return to Boston

by Eric Russo @erusso22 / BostonBruins.com

BOSTON - Tuukka Rask revealed on Friday morning that he played most of the 2020-21 campaign with a torn hip labrum that will require surgery within the next month. The netminder, an unrestricted free agent next month, said that he expects a five- to six-month recovery and would like to return to the Bruins for his 15th season in Black & Gold.

"Start the recovery process and then we'll see what the future holds after that," Rask said during his end-of-season media availability on Friday morning. "Hopefully the recovery goes well and I'll be ready to play hockey at some point next year…mentally, I'm up for [continuing to play].

"The physical aspect, hopefully everything goes well, then we'll probably be looking at a January or February return to hockey. That's kind of the plan and hopefully it works out."

Rask believes the injury dates back to the Bruins' 2020 first-round playoff matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes in Toronto when he felt a pop while stretching to make a save early in the series. The wear and tear grew worse as this season progressed and eventually caused his back to "seize up," which limited him to just one game from March 7 through April 15. Overall, Rask played in just 24 games during the regular season, his lowest total since the 2011-12 campaign when he suited up for 23.

"Obviously if you play goalie as much as I have, and with the butterfly style, these things happen at some point to almost everybody," said Rask. "We had to manage my workload really well during the season, so you don't have to play a lot of games in a row. Obviously, in the playoffs, you play every other night, so it's hard, but it never got to a point where I couldn't play.

"The reason I missed time during the season was because I was compensating that hip injury with my other muscles and then my back seized up and I could barely walk for a week over there. That's why I missed the time. The hip itself was never the issue.

"It just locks up on me every once in a while, and that's why you see me kind of limping out there. Obviously, it's not easy to play with a labral tear as a goalie, but like I said a couple days ago, I think our training staff did a great job maintaining it and keeping me out there."

Video: Rask Speaks to Media on Bruins Breakup Day

While there was some question about his status heading into Game 6 of the second round against the New York Islanders, Rask - who was pulled after the second period of Game 5 for what coach Bruce Cassidy termed "maintenance" - ended up suiting up for all 11 games of the postseason with a 6-5 record, 2.36 goals against average, and .919 save percentage.

As he prepares for a surgery and a lengthy recovery, Rask is also contemplating his playing future as he gets set to hit free agency for the first time since 2013. The backstop made it clear, however, that he has no interest in playing anywhere else, saying he and his family have made Boston their home.

"I'm not going to play for anyone else than the Bruins. This is our home," said Rask, who just finished up the final year of an eight-year, $56 million contract ($7 million average annual value) signed in July 2013. "We have three kids. The kids enjoy it here. They have friends in school. We have friends. At this point of my life and my career, I don't see any reason to go anywhere else, especially with the health I'm looking at now and a recovery time of five or six months.

"Hopefully it works out that I recover well and we can talk about contracts when the time is right for that."

The 34-year-old added that he will monitor his recovery before determining how much longer he wants to play.

"Who knows? I think, first and foremost, I'm trying to get this hip fixed and start the recovery and we'll see how I feel after," said Rask. "You never know how it goes. You never know what they find when they open the hip, maybe it's worse than expected. I don't know. It's kind of tough to give you an answer now.

"If everything goes well and I start feeling great and I come back and play and feel awesome, then who knows how long I'll play, but it could also go the other way. Maybe I don't recover that well and maybe I just can't play anymore. Who knows?"

If he does return next season, Rask said that while he rehabs from his offseason surgery - and moving forward - he would like to do all he can to help mentor and guide Boston's young goalies, Jeremy Swayman and Daniel Vladar, as they continue their development.

"That's what I've been talking about with [Bruins general manager Don Sweeney] and the coaching staff, too," said Rask, who became the Bruins all-time winningest postseason goalie with his 54th victory in Game 4 against Washington on May 21. "I've played enough hockey. It's getting to the point where any way I can be helpful for these young guys, I want to do it. Who knows what the goaltending situation is going to look like when the season starts?

"I'm definitely up for helping out in any shape or form I can. I've been through it as a young guy. You [the media] were praising me for the first few weeks, few months. A couple years later it might turn. That's why I'm here. When that happens to [Swayman], I can be helpful and tell him to block the media out."

On that note, Rask was open in discussing the criticism he receives from the media and fanbase, saying that he does not pay attention to social media or the news and has always received well wishes and respect from people that he encounters in public settings.

"There's a reason I don't read social media or the news really because when you get caught up in that, it might be mentally tough, so it really doesn't affect me because I don't hear that noise," said Rask. "I think I've said many times before, people have opinions. They have the right to say whatever they want to say, as long as it's in some kind of good limits. I respect that. It doesn't affect my game.

"I feel like every time I go out on the town or wherever, people have been really supportive. It's not like I go to the grocery store and people are throwing eggs at me or yelling at me over there. That might suck. People talk on social media, whatever the topic is. It seems like everyone has an opinion on everything. It doesn't bother me."

Rask added that he is well aware of the high expectations that come with being a professional athlete in Boston and that he accepts the criticism that comes with not having a championship to his name as the Bruins' starting goaltender.

"The Patriots definitely haven't helped anybody in that regard because they won championships every year it seems like. This city recognizes champions as their heroes," said Rask. "Obviously, as an athlete you want to win. You want to have a chance to win every year and I think we've been very close a few times. It's unfortunate that we haven't reached that goal yet and I haven't won the Cup as a playing goalie, but I feel like I've played good hockey and given us a chance.

"It's tough to win. There's very few guys who win it. It's not easy. We've definitely tried and I just haven't been able to close the deal and that's the way it is. You just have to deal with it. Maybe it will happen. Who knows?" 

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