Boston Bruins

Dec 1, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) takes a drink of water during the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Free agent goaltender Tuukka Rask’s inevitable return to the Bruins is drawing closer.

In fact, the 34-year-old Rask, who has made it clear that this is the only place he wants to play, has gone from solo workouts to working with the team as their emergency backup goaltender on the Warrior Ice Arena sheet in a matter of weeks.

But it hasn’t hit the point where the sides are talking contract just yet, according to Bruins president Cam Neely.

“I know Don [Sweeney] and Tuukka’s agent had some discussions, [but] I don’t think they’ve talked contract just yet,” Neely said via Zoom on Wednesday. “Certainly wanted to see Tuukka ramp up in practice and what not. You know, unfortunately with what’s going on with the pause here, he’s not getting NHL shots on him right now. I think that’s what he was looking forward to: getting ramped up a little bit more these last few weeks of December and early January.”

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t sound like the B’s have changed their stance at all. They just (understandably) would have preferred to see Rask up his workload to close out 2021, which is currently impossible with the B’s shut out of Warrior Ice Arena due to their 10-player COVID outbreak. (Players are allowed to visit the facility if they’re rehabbing an injury, but group on-ice workouts aren’t permitted. Hence the ‘not getting NHL shots o him’ comment from Neely.)

The Bruins, for what it’s worth, have been encouraged by what they’ve seen from Rask in his recovery.

“Just by watching him, he looked good,” Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco said earlier this month. “I can’t tell as far as how close he is [to returning] or not, but certainly looked good out there.”

“Tuuks is one of the best goalies to play during our time, so him coming back, if he’s ready to play, is obviously great for the group,” Brad Marchand offered. “Tuuks is another guy who can come in and make a difference.”

The current timeline still projects Rask to return to the team in late January or early February, and the Bruins still seem more than ready to welcome him back to the fold when he’s good to go.

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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.