By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — It’s Tuukka Time once again for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask will get the start for Boston in Thursday night’s tilt against the New York Islanders at TD Garden.

Rask has been in and out (mostly out) with an upper-body injury for the last six weeks, playing parts of just three games since March 3. But he’ll be back in net for the Bruins Thursday night as the team goes for its second straight win.

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Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy has no worries about Rask stopping pucks in his return, though he is curious to see how the netminder handles a 60-minute workload after such a lengthy layoff.

“We don’t practice that much so you don’t get a good feel for 5-on-5 D-zone drills, a lot of action around the net, because you’re trying to conserve energy in those areas,” Cassidy explained Thursday morning. “You’re not seeing that bumping around the net. I don’t know if I can sit here and say that he’s dealt with the rigors of battling through finding pucks in traffic — the physical part of being a goaltender. That’s something we’ll have to find out on the fly.

“As far as stopping the puck and technically, all that stuff, he’s good,” Cassidy said confidently. “He’s practiced with us for a while with no setbacks, so that’s good. But until we get through game action, we just don’t know. Tonight is going to be his first test.”

Rask is 8-4-2 with a .907 save percentage and 2.40 goals against average in his 15 games played this season. He last played in a game on March 25, when he went just one period before being forced out after re-aggravating that upper-body injury.

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With backup goalie Jaroslav Halak also out since April 3 due to COVID protocols, the Bruins have relied on rookies Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar in net. The young duo has filled in admirably, going 3-2-1 for Boston.

But having Rask back in net is a different beast for Boston, and as Brad Marchand explained, it adds another level of confidence to everyone on the ice.

“It kind of puts us at ease a little bit. He’s been one of the best goalies in the last decade in this league. When he’s in net for our team, we have an opportunity to win every single night, especially in crunch time where we need him,” said Marchand.

“Obviously points are very important right now and we need to win our games in hand to catch up to the teams ahead of us,” he added. “Hopefully he allows us to feel comfortable and gives us that extra chance when we’re not playing at our best and need a save to calm us down. He’s always been so good at that in the past and we’re excited to have him back.”

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Maybe having Rask in net will help Boston solve its issues with the Islanders. The Bruins are 0-3-2 against the Isles this season, and have been outscored 18-8 in those contests.

CBSBoston.com Staff