BOSTON – Few players have more of a reason to be disappointed January is about to end than Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Bruins coach Claude Julien made the unusual move after the morning skate of confirming that Rask will start Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings at TD Garden. It would be hard to blame Julien for once again turning to Rask.
In January, Rask has a 6-1-3 record, .947 save percentage and 1.67 goals-against average. Rask had a rougher time in December with a .896 save percentage and 2.98 GAA.
"Yeah, I feel good out there. I've felt pretty good all year," Rask said. "Obviously now the luck has been on our side more a little bit now and I feel more confident now. But taking strides, that's good."
Rask will make his eighth straight start and his 16th start in the Bruins' past 18 games. He has played in 40 of their 49 games, which would put him on pace to play in 66 games. He has never exceeded 60 games played at any level, on any continent. A heavier schedule in the next couple months might cause the Bruins to slow Rask's pace, but Julien's not concerned about overworking his ace.
"You know I look around the League and I look at other goaltenders and they've had the same workloads, a lot of them," Julien said. "At the same time I think, except for a couple of stretches where we've had some tight games, he's had some breaks and we had six days off [during the All-Star break]. He's played a game, had another day in between, he plays tonight and we got another three days before the next game. It's not like he's being overworked with back-to-backs or five in eight where he's played all five games.
"When that comes we'll manage that but right now I think he's doing fine. From my end I keep checking with him, asking how he's feeling, making sure if he's tired then I got to make a decision there. When a goaltender is hot you have a tendency to want to ride him."
Rask has given the Bruins the green light to ride him as much as they want.
"I think whenever you're not feeling as comfortable out there you kind of want to get those games and get that feeling," said Rask, who has a 2.34 GAA and .920 save percentage on the season. "And then whenever you're feeling comfortable, you want to keep going. I don't mind it. Obviously you can't play every game because there's so many back-to-backs and stuff. I like playing and that's what they pay me for, so no complaints there."
The Kings are starting a five-game road trip. This season they are 5-9-6 away from Staples Center. In order to claim a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they're going to have to do better on the road, and they want that to start now.
"If you can pinpoint those things, you'd nip them in the bud right away and you don't have to deal with them anymore. Success on the road has been tough to come by," Kings forward Justin Williams said. "We've had a tough time in overtime and shootouts this year. That goes without saying. So our record could've been marginally better because of that. But traditionally we've been a good road team. We're not taking anything for granted. We need to keep going."
Here are the projected lineups:
Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Dwight King – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Kyle Clifford – Jarret Stoll – Justin Williams
Trevor Lewis – Nick Shore – Jordan Nolan
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr – Alec Martinez
Brayden McNabb – Matt Greene
Scratched: Jamie McBain, Andy Andreoff
Suspended: Slava Voynov
Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Reilly Smith
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Loui Eriksson
Chris Kelly – Carl Soderberg – David Pastrnak
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Craig Cunningham
Zdeno Chara – Dougie Hamilton
Dennis Seidenberg – Adam McQuaid
Torey Krug – Kevan Miller
Scratched: Matt Bartkowski, Jordan Caron
Status update: Caron took the first line rush with the fourth line for the Bruins during the morning skate. Julien said a decision on the lineup will be made at game time. ... Subban will dress as a backup for a regular season NHL game for the first time. He was called up from Providence of the American Hockey League on Friday when Niklas Svedberg was sent on a conditioning assignment.
Who's hot: Carter has three goals and one assist in his past two games. ... Smith has five points (one goal) in his past three games. ... Rask has allowed two or fewer goals in five straight games.