Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 22: Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the second period of the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on October 22, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

To say that that the inevitable reunion between free agent goaltender Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins is the worst kept secret implies that it’s a secret when in reality it’s been anything but.

The Bruins have left the door open for the 34-year-old Rask to return once he’s fully recovered from his offseason hip surgery, and with that recovery trending well and setting him up for a January or February return, the Bruins served up yet another reminder that Rask is likely back in Boston when good to go.

“There’s been a general understanding that Tuukka has to make a decision on his health first and foremost, 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,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Tuesday. “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.”

Rask, who has upped his on-ice training in recent days and has actually worked with the B’s staff and their goaltenders of late, is coming off a 2021 season that included a 15-5-2 record and .913 save percentage before a 6-4-0 postseason where Rask started strong but ultimately fell apart when the hip issues became too much to overcome.

Boston’s interest in Rask has been there from the start, sure, but there’s no doubt that the team’s current Jeremy Swayman-Linus Ullmark tandem simply hasn’t been dominant enough for the Bruins to pass on another run with Rask in town.

“They’ve been OK,” Sweeney said of his current tandem. “I think both of them have really, really strong pockets of games and other times where they haven’t played quite as well as they would like in some situations. We have higher expectations for everybody in that sense. I don’t think Linus and Jeremy would say it any differently than I am.”

In the case of Swayman, who has six wins and a .908 save percentage through 10 decisions this season, Sweeney believes that teams are now doing their homework on the 23-year-old breakout star of the pandemic season. Swayman has been fine, all things considered, but has struggled with rebound control at times.

Ullmark, meanwhile, has won five of his first nine decisions with the B’s since jumping to Boston on a four-year, $20 million contract in free agency, but has yet to fully find his groove yet.

“We’ve got some growing pains associated with that position,” Sweeney offered. “I would say it’s more inconsistencies than anything else, but we’re still in a good place where our goaltending and our depth is overall. If we have to address something we will.”

But the truth is, we all know how they’re going to address that something.

It’s just a matter of when.

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Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.