Goaltender Tuukka Rask is set to make his long-awaited return when the Boston Bruins host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night seeking their seventh victory in eight games since the holiday break.
A free agent, Rask rejoined the Bruins on a one-year, $1 million contract on Tuesday after recovering from offseason hip surgery. The 34-year-old veteran rehabbed with the team in recent weeks and signed a minor league tryout agreement last week.
Whether or not the former Vezina Trophy-winning goalie would return to the only team he's ever played for was once an uncertainty.
With Rask on the shelf to start the season, the Bruins signed veteran Linus Ullmark to split time with Jeremy Swayman, a rookie. Swayman, who served as Rask's backup in the stretch run last season, was assigned to the Providence Bruins of the AHL on Wednesday.
"I think the biggest motivation is to play with the group that I've played with my whole career and have another chance to win," Rask said.
Rask posted a 15-5-2 record with a .913 save percentage and a 2.28 goals-against average in 24 starts last season with Boston. Rask is the Bruins' all-time winningest goaltender, boasting a career 306-163-66 mark in 560 games over 14 seasons.
On Wednesday, Brad Marchand scored twice in a 15-seconds span late in the first period and completed his hat trick 7:10 into the second as the Bruins routed the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 for a third straight win.
Philadelphia is coming off an extended break since a 3-2 overtime loss to the visiting San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
The Flyers were scheduled to host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday before the NHL postponed the game due to COVID-19 issues for Philadelphia.
Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov were all sidelined for the Flyers' Saturday game in the league's COVID protocol.
On Wednesday, interim Philadelphia coach Mike Yeo confirmed that Konecny, Provorov and Justin Braun would all return for the Thursday game in Boston. Rasmus Ristolainen is the team's only remaining on the COVID list.
Provorov was critical of the league's handling of the COVID pandemic during Wednesday's media availability.
"Is it tough? Yeah," Provorov said. "You're willing to play through anything, you know, any injury, any illness, and then here you get maybe a regular flu, I mean not even, and then somebody tells you you can't come back when you feel fine."
Philadelphia has dropped five straight games (0-3-2) after winning five of its previous six.
Carter Hart will get the start in net on Thursday for the Flyers. The 23-year-old has faced the Bruins more than any other opponent in his young career, posting a 4-4-2 record with a .879 save percentage and a 3.74 goals-against average in 10 games.
Meanwhile, Rask owns a pristine 19-2-4 record with a .927 save percentage and a 2.06 goals-against average in 26 career games vs. Philadelphia.
The Bruins and Flyers split their first two meetings of the season. Philadelphia earned a 6-3 home victory on Oct. 20 before Boston returned the favor with a 5-2 road victory on Nov. 20.
--Field Level Media