Bruins keeping crease warm for a Tuukka Rask return

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John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

While the Bruins hum along in the middle of the Atlantic Division with 22 points in 19 games, one area of concern may soon be getting a boost in the form of an old friend.

Tuukka Rask has been skating at the Bruins’ practice facility the past few weeks as he works his way back from surgery on his right hip. The 34-year-old, who is currently an unrestricted free agent, said over the summer that if he plays again in the NHL he only wants it to be in Boston.

With that being the case the Bruins are holding a door open for him should be get back to 100% health within the next month or so. The fact is they could use the goaltending help as Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman have a combined .908 5-on-5 save percentage, per Natural Stat Trick.

“They’ve been OK,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said of his goaltending duo. “They both have had really, really strong pockets of games, and other times where they haven’t played as well as they would like in some situations. And we have higher expectations for everybody. So I don’t think Linus and Jeremy would say it any differently than I am.”

[MORE: Tuukka Rask only wants to play for Bruins, might do it for ‘cheap’]

What is a timeline for Rask being ready to return? ESPN’s Sean McDonough said during Friday’s Bruins loss to the Rangers that Rask told him he is starting to skate five times a week and hopes to be back playing in early January.

The Bruins have 13 games in December and 17 in the new year before the Olympic break. That’s a heavy workload for the current duo, and adding someone like Rask could help with rest during an important stretch of their season.

“There’s been a general understanding that Tuukka has to make a decision on his health first and foremost,” said Sweeney. “And when he’s able to do that officially and declare himself that this is what he wants to do and play then we’ll find the common ground. We have not hidden from that fact that if indeed he is healthy and wants to play, then he’s likely to be a part of our group.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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