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Tuukka Rask ready to return to Bruins lineup

Boston could have its No. 1 goalie back on ice by Saturday

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask practiced Friday and might be able to play against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, FS-D, NESN, NHL.TV).

Rask has been out with an undisclosed injury since Oct. 20, when he made 28 saves in a 2-1 win against the New Jersey Devils. He returned to the ice for the first time in a week on Thursday, working briefly with goaltending coach Bob Essensa.

On Friday, Rask and Essensa went through 15 minutes of shooting drills, helped by defenseman Zdeno Chara and forward Riley Nash, prior to Rask joining the full practice that followed.

After the practice, Rask said progress has been made but more recovery remains. He said the injury had healed enough to go on the road trip and, at minimum, serve as the backup goaltender against the Red Wings.

"It's good enough that I feel comfortable skating and being out there, so that's a good sign, "he said. "It's very tough to be 100 percent without taking a month or two off with these kind of things. But I feel good enough and comfortable to be out there."

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he's in a wait-and-see mode about who will start in Detroit. The Bruins planned to assign one of their other goaltenders, Zane McIntyre or Malcolm Subban, to Providence of the American Hockey League before leaving for Detroit, Julien said.

After Detroit, Boston visits the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

"If [Rask] is great, and he practiced well today, and if he's good [Saturday] and there's no issues there [he can play]," Julien said. "He looked good to me today. So we'll make that decision but I think we've gone this far, we're going to make sure we make the right decision, not the reckless one."

Striking such a balance is the challenge for Rask and the Bruins.

Rask first sustained the injury Oct. 13 in the Bruins' season-opening 6-3 win at the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was seen flexing during one timeout and even made his way to the bench for a chat with the trainers.

He didn't practice the next day and served as the backup for in a 4-1 loss at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 15. Rask played against the Winnipeg Jets two days later and made 34 saves in a 4-1 win. Three nights later, he defeated New Jersey but wasn't right and was seen flexing his leg on at least two occasions.

"The Jersey game was the toughest one," said Rask, who started the season 3-0-0 for the first time in his career and has a 1.67 goals-against average and .947 save percentage. "It wasn't too tough. It's just nagging, painful sometimes, but I didn't feel like I hurt anything."'

The Bruins are 3-4-0 and have lost three in a row since Rask left the lineup, allowing 14 goals in that span.

Forward David Backes (elbow surgery) won't start the road trip with the Bruins and forward David Pastrnak was suspended two games on Friday. He is eligible to return against the Lightning.

Rask has some experience with nagging injuries, so he is not planning to rush back. In 2012, he missed 19 games with a groin/abdominal strain, and he thinks he learned from that situation.

"I think I'm a little more cautious now with it because I re-injured myself about four years ago and then you miss two or three months because of an injury," Rask said. "You obviously want to play but you don't want to force it and then be off two months. So that's really the toughest thing for us to decide. But it feels good now."

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