Tuukka Rask has spent a lot of time practicing in the 11 days since training camp began. He has also spent a lot of time watching his teammates play in exhibition games.
On Monday night, that will change.
“Tuukka will be playing [Monday], and our goal is probably to play him [Monday] and Friday,” Julien said following a brief Sunday afternoon practice at TD Garden. “For right now, that’s our goal — so two games closer to the end of camp and closer to the start of the season.
“He was very receptive to the point where he thought that would be enough for him. He skated a lot, practiced a lot, so he just wants a couple of games. And so that’s what we’re going to end up doing with him.”
As the competition for the role of backup goaltender played out through the first week and a half of camp, it was a given that the contenders — Jeremy Smith, Jonas Gustavsson, Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban — were going to see a lot of time in net in the early going of this preseason.
Monday night, though, will be Tuukka Time. And as Julien hinted, Rask was happy to wait for his opportunity.
“I could have gotten out there if I really asked,” Rask said. “I mean, [it] doesn’t really matter if you start the camp playing, or you wait a week and you play then. You’re going to get two, two and a half, three games or whatever it is, and I think the biggest thing is you just try to feel as good as you possibly can going into the season.
“I think that’s the plan for me next week. I guess there’s plenty of action once the season starts, so I’ll just try to get off to a good start in the preseason.”
Last year, Rask played in a career high 70 games. He wasn’t shy about the fact that coming down the stretch — as the Bruins battled for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference — it felt like every game he played was a postseason game.
But with a long summer to recover from last year’s increased workload, Rask is ready and eager to jump back in and get started on another campaign.
“I’ve been skating a long time, but it’s always different when you start skating with the team because you get the game-like drills — you know, 5-on-5, 5-on-3, 2-on-1 — with a good tempo, so it’s very game-like out there, and I’ve felt good the past week and a half, and I feel confident going into [Monday].
“Obviously, it’s always different when you play a game and you have to get used to it again — the game speed and the situations that happen in a game — so that’s my goal for the next week.”
Krejci Line Getting Into a Groove
On Sept. 22, in their debut as a line, David Krejci, David Pastrnak and Matt Beleskey showed flashes of the offensive spark they could provide for the Bruins moving into the regular season.
On Saturday night, in a 4-3 overtime win over Detroit, they showed even more, as all three of them were on the ice for the Krejci goal that opened up the scoring in the first period.
The chemistry is percolating, Pastrnak said.
“We’ve played a few games together already and had some [practices] together, so we’ve found some chemistry together,” Pastrnak said. “I know [Beleskey] is a very good player, and me and Krech, we played a few games together last year, so we already had some chemistry, and ’Skey just jumped in, and I think he does a great job. Krech is just one of the leaders here, so I’m just happy I can play with those two guys.”
Just because they have spent most of the preseason together, however, does not mean they will stay together.
The preseason is the perfect time to experiment, and that is precisely what Julien intends to do.
“We may try Pastrnak with [Patrice] Bergeron and [Loui] Eriksson with [Krejci] — and we may not,” Julien said. “We’ll play along, and I know that both players are smart enough to kind of switch around and that kind of stuff, and I’ve done that in practice a couple of days, so those things may happen.
“Again, there’s certain players — I think you’ll see in the next few games, there are couple of players moved around, just to experiment with it. Like I said, for me, the preseason is about learning more about the individual and about the combinations because during the season, things are going to happen and you’ve experienced it at least once, [so] you have a bit of an idea of what you’re dealing with. We have a lot of new faces in our lineup. I’m trying to learn as much about them with different players as I can.”
Krejci’s second goal of Saturday’s game came on the power play, but still, Julien credited his new linemate with creating space for the shot to get through. That willingness to go the dirty areas and sacrifice the body is only part of what Beleskey brings to his line.
“David’s second goal there on the power play — the shot from the point — it’s because Matt’s in front of the net,” Julien said. “There’s a screen there, and he’s gritty and he’s going into the corners, and he’s a guy that’s coming into an organization trying to figure things out and trying to work his way in. To me, I’ve seen a guy improving all the time.
“I like his game — he’s in your face, he competes every shift, and that’s what we want out of our players, are guys that are going to come and compete all the time. He’s going to get better, and playing with David Krejci, he’s going to get his scoring chances as well.”
Pastrnak, a second-year player, is relishing his opportunity to play with two veterans who have noses for the net. The more he skates with them, the more Julien has seen him improve, particularly during Saturday’s game.
“I thought [Pastrnak] skated well and made some good plays,” Julien said. “He’s not shying away from anything, and whether sometimes he gets knocked down or not, he’s getting in there and again, those are things that we want.
“That line is finding some chemistry right now, and that’s nice to see.”
Cross Stepping Up
After spending three full seasons with Providence in the American League, Tommy Cross is familiar with the training camp drill.
But after three full seasons with Providence, he is eager to see this camp end differently than the few that have come before it.
“I think we’re all similar in the sense that we’re all trying to break in and make a mark and be a part of the organization,” Cross said of his fellow rookie hopefuls. “So even though I’ve been there longer than some of the first-year guys, I think we all have a lot in common and we’re trying to make our mark and make it the year that you help the team out and help the Boston team win.”
Leadership comes naturally to Cross. He wore the C for Boston College during his senior, and he has worn the A during his time with the P-Bruins.
So naturally, as he navigates this training camp, he serves as a resource of sorts for some of the first-year players within the organization.
“I think knowing where to go and knowing some of the logistics, I think that you can lend a helping hand in that way,” he said. “But on the ice, definitely, we’re all very similar in a way.”
Already during this camp, Cross has made an impact among the crop of blueliners hoping to crack the big club. In Saturday’s 4-3 overtime win over Detroit, he registered the primary assist on Krejci’s first-period goal.
“Tommy Cross is another one who has been so good in Providence,” Julien said. “He’s always been, I guess, questioned about his skating a little bit, and we all know he’s had some knee issues at a younger age, but to me, handled himself real well [on Saturday]. And there was no issues with his skating and the pace of the game last night, so it’s good for him.
“He’s a real good. He’s a gamer, he’s a leader in Providence. So he’s gained a lot of respect in a lot of points in our mind where he’s still here and he’s still battling for a spot.”
Cross said he could see a dramatic difference in his play on Saturday versus his play one week ago in the preseason opener against New Jersey.
“I definitely felt much more comfortable [Saturday] in my second game,” he said. “The first one in Providence against New Jersey felt very quick and scrambly, and [Saturday] felt much more controlled and more comfortable. So that was encouraging for me to see, and I think everyone felt that way, and it certainly showed in how we played.”
When Cross is on his game, he brings more than a steady defensive presence. When he is on his game, he is tangling with the opponent and amping up his physicality.
There have been glimpses of that trademark snarl throughout his first two games of the preseason.
“I think for me, it helps the rest of my game when I’m involved physically,” he said. “I think it doesn’t always mean fighting, but finishing checks and winning battles down low. It kind of gets me into the game and then all of a sudden, I’m making better plays with the puck.
“I’m trying to focus on that and being hard to play against, and that’s definitely what they want up here, is guys that defend well and protect the front of the net.”
Training camp is ticking down to crunch time. Only three games remain on the schedule, and in one week, the Bruins will begin practicing for the regular season.
For the next week, therefore, Cross — and his fellow blueliners — will be focused on going everything they can to make a case for themselves until the 2015-16 cast is set.
“Definitely this year, I think the injuries have increased the competitiveness even more,” Cross said. “But the group is very welcoming. At the end of the day, they want to win, and they want guys that are going to push hard and help the team, so everyone’s pushing each other and lending a helping hand and making everyone feel comfortable.
“I think that’s been very important.”
Sunday’s Roster Transactions
Following Sunday’s practice, General Manager Don Sweeney announced that the training camp roster had been trimmed.
Two of the most notable players to be sent to Providence’s training camp were goalies Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre. Subban played the entirety of Saturday night’s 4-3 overtime win over Detroit, making 18 saves on 21 shot attempts.
2015 draft selections Jake DeBrusk, Jakub Zboril and Brandon Carlo were all returned to their junior teams.
The full list of players who have been assigned to Providence or Providence’s training camp can be found here.
Sunday’s Practice Lineup
Forwards: Tyler Randell, Brian Ferlin, Chris Kelly, Austin Czarnik, Matt Beleskey, Anton Blidh, Max Talbot, Brett Connolly, Ryan Spooner, Joonas Kemppainen, Frank Vatrano, Zac Rinaldo, Loui Eriksson, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Jimmy Hayes, Alex Khokhlachev
Defensemen: Zach Trotman, Linus Arnesson, Adam McQuaid, Joe Morrow, Matt Irwin, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Tommy Cross, Chris Casto, Colin Miller
Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson, Jeremy Smith