BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Bruins may be without Tuukka Rask for an extended period of time after the goaltender took an errant elbow to the head just 1:12 into the team’s 3-0 loss in Columbus on Tuesday night. Rask suffered a concussion on the play, according to head coach Bruce Cassidy, making it very unlikely he’ll play again before the All-Star break next weekend.
Rask was injured when Blue Jackets rookie Emil Bemstron threw a blindside elbow at the netminder’s head as he skated through the crease early in the first period. The blow, which left Rask dazed on the ice for a few moments, did not draw a penalty from officials. When Rask made it off the ice under his own power, he had a few choice words for officials as he made his way to the Boston locker room.
Cassidy said the officials on the ice missed a blatant penalty.
“It’s an elbow to the head; it’s a penalty, is what it is,” said Cassidy. “But they missed it, so you move on. It’s just unfortunate it happens to your No. 1. It was pretty clear to me.”
“After [Rask] went down, I was kind of asking the ref what happened and he said that it was an accident, it was a stick to the face,” said defenseman Brandon Carlo, who was engaged with Bemstron just ahead of the hit. “That’s what he saw. I don’t know if the guys were really aware of that at the time. But after the first period, we obviously saw it.”
Rask’s teammates didn’t immediately respond to Bemstrom after he took out their goaltender, but started to target the rookie in the second period after they saw replays during the first intermission. Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug and Joakim Nordstrom all went after Bemstrom, with Nordstrom drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. When it was clear that Bemstrom — who said he did not intend to injure Rask on the play — didn’t want to fight, the Bruins called off the hounds.
“Should there have been a better response? I think there could have been,” Cassidy said after the loss. “But I don’t know if they saw it in real time. It’s a little bit late [in the second period]. You can’t take the law into your own hands then. You can certainly address it with the player on the ice.
“We’re not going to go elbow their goalie in the head,” added Cassidy.
The Bruins never made Bemstrom pay for his hit to Rask, and it never gave them a spark the rest of the way. Columbus rookie goaltender Elvis Merzlikins stopped all 34 of Boston’s shots for his second straight shutout.
This comes nearly one year from when Rask suffered his last concussion after he was run over by New York Rangers center Filip Chytil. Cassidy said there was a chance that Rask may avoid entering concussion protocol, but said the team wouldn’t know for sure until Wednesday morning.
Boston has three games before they get an extended break for All-Star festivities followed by their bye week. Rask said before Tuesday’s game that he was going to skip All-Star weekend to rest and be with his family. Boston will be off from Jan. 22-30, which should give Rask a much-needed break after Tuesday’s unfortunate injury.