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Bruins

Kalman: After Conquering The Flu, Rask Ready To Dig Deep During Difficult March Schedule

By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
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Tuukka Rask (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Tuukka Rask (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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WILMINGTON (CBS) – Never mind the implications Tuukka Rask’s workload with Finland at the 2014 Sochi Olympics will have on his play for the Bruins the rest of this season.

More important was his ability to recover from the flu-like symptoms, including a severe fever, which kept him out of the semifinals against Sweden. Rask confirmed that his absence from that crucial game wasn’t the result of pregame partying. And he was also relieved there wasn’t any funny business going on between himself and his countrymen’s Scandinavian archrivals. A little Ex-Lax in Rask’s borscht would’ve been all that was needed to give the Swedes a chance to face Kari Lehtonen in goal instead of Rask.

“I thought it was maybe [Bruins teammate] Loui [Eriksson] and the Swedes,” Rask joked after he took part in an optional practice at Ristuccia Arena, his first time on the ice since returning from Russia.

Rask conquered the flu, which he says he played with prior to the semifinals, and then he dominated the United States for a bronze medal. Despite Rask’s defeat of the country he now calls home in-season, Rask wasn’t denied return passage to Boston. He got some rest and was even granted the privilege of skipping the Bruins’ trip to the wonderful city of Buffalo for the a 5-4 overtime loss to the Sabres on Wednesday.

After going through some drills, Rask said he felt fine. And like his coach, Claude Julien, the goaltender said the competition in Sochi was a cure for the mid-winter doldrums.

“As tough as it is, you get to enjoy it,” Rask said. “It’s not the same grind as it is here. You feel rejuvenated, feel sharp.”

Although Julien said he didn’t know when Rask would get his first Bruins start since the Olympic break, there’s no doubt there will be a workload that could make the Russian flu seem like a day at the beach on Rask’s shoulders in March. The Bruins play 17 games in the month that usually comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb but for the Bruins is annually a beast.

It all starts with a back-to-back on the weekend, home against the Washington Capitals and on the road against the New York Rangers. Rask thinks experience will be a vital weapon for the Bruins before they escape into April.

“Well the good thing is that we’ve been through it before,” he said. “So it’s nothing new for us. But we just have to approach it the right way and make sure we get our rest at the right times and really, really dig deep in those games. I think we have five back-to-backs, so it’s going to be tough. But it’s nice that we’ve been through it before and we have the experience and leadership here to get through it and finish it off on the night note.”

Once everyone’s rested and rust-free, the Bruins and their medal-winning quartet of Rask, Eriksson, Patrice Bergeron and Julien might be able to carry over their momentum to the NHL season, and even share it with their teammates. Based on the condensed schedule and lengthy playoff run of last season, there’s really no reason to worry that anything other than high-powered offenses will bring down Rask … well, unless someone imports that Russian flu.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.

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