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Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask didn’t travel, won’t play vs. Islanders

03.25.17 at 2:10 pm ET
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Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask will not play tonight against the Islanders. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask will not play tonight against the Islanders. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

For the second year in a row, the Bruins find themselves in what is essentially a must-win game and Tuukka Rask is unavailable.

Called out after allowing five goals on 28 shots in Thursday’s loss to the Lightning (the game-winning goal was a straight-up bad one), the 30-year-old Rask was not on the ice for Friday’s practice back in Boston (Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy called it a maintenance day), and did not travel to Brooklyn with the club for tonight’s game against the Islanders because of what the team has termed a lower-body injury.

“He’s day-to-day,” Cassidy said after the morning skate in Brooklyn. “He came in yesterday, had some discomfort — lower-body — he had some work done and didn’t feel that he’d be ready to go today.”

With Rask unavailable, the Bruins will turn to Anton Khudobin (which Cassidy alluded to as their possible plan for tonight’s game even if Rask was healthy and with the team) as the team’s starter, and Zane McIntyre has rejoined the club on an emergency basis.

This is the last thing that the Black and Gold wanted to hear, especially when they’re trying to avoid a collapse out of the postseason picture for the third year in a row. (The Bruins, by the way, begin the day in ninth place in the Eastern Conference thanks to last night’s Isles win over the Penguins, and have just a one-point edge over the Lightning for 10th place.)

This is not the first time that Rask has battled a lower-body injury this year. And while it’s unknown if this is the same lower-body injury that bugged Rask back in late October, he did mention around that time that he was unlikely to be 100 percent this season without taking at least a month off, which is something that obviously did not happen.

“Obviously we’re monitoring [Rask] closely,” Cassidy continued, “but we expect him to be ready to practice Monday.”

Khudobin, the team’s de facto No. 1 goaltender, enters action with a 5-5-1 record and .897 save percentage this season, but is 4-0-0 with a .916 save percentage in four starts under Cassidy, including a 21-of-23 win over the Flames in his last start. Khudobin stopped 15-of-16 shots in his lone appearance against the Isles this year, which was a 32-minute relief outing.

The Bruins are 5-10-2 in games decided by a backup goalie this season.

Admiral’s mailbag: How did Bruce Cassidy’s magic wear off?

03.25.17 at 9:12 am ET
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Bruce Cassidy. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bruce Cassidy. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

It’s mailbag time!

To submit questions, email letitbleedrearad@gmail.com or Tweet @RearAdBsBlog and include question, name, and city/state. Let’s get after it …

Sidney Crosby has 42 goals in 74 games so he’ll need to finish with a goal a game for the last eight games to hit 50 for the second time. Will he get it? Dan, Stoneham, MA

I learned long ago not to bet against or doubt Sidney Crosby anymore. So yes, I’ll go out on a limb and say, sure. I know he’s not a favorite of Bruins fans (and Philly’s hate for him is actually impressive). As evidenced by his scrotal stick smack on Ryan O’Reilly Tuesday night and his fingertip-lopping slash on Ottawa’s poor Marc Methot Thursday, he’s certainly no choir boy. So when he does the Steve Urkel “Did I do that?” routine, he gets double the hate.

But if you’re a fan of the game, you really have to appreciate just how awesome of a player he is. His otherworldly skills were best exemplified in a spectacular, defense-carving beeline to the net that culminated in a one-handed backhander that went top shelf with some serious mustard on it. It became an instant favorite for Goal of the Year because who the hell else could pull this off? He pulled away from Brad Marchand in the goal-scoring race and has been a dominant force all over the ice.

“Superstar grinder” is what fellow All-Star Taylor Hall called him. You don’t have to like him but you sure have to enjoy him.

What the hell has happened to the Bruins? John, South Boston, MA

That’s the Million Dollar Question. They went from world beaters under Bruce Cassidy, winning 12 of their first 15, to a mistake-prone team on a four game losing streak that can’t defend or get secondary scoring at the absolute worst possible time. Tuukka Rask, who has been an anchor for the vast majority of the season, had a brutal third period Thursday vs. Tampa Bay in a huge spot. A playoff berth looked liked a slam dunk a week or so ago. Today, it’s looks like a three-pointer. With a man in your face.

So did Butch’s magic wear off? Are the Bruins of the last week who the Bruins really are? And if so, why the hell did they play so damn good for that previous stretch? Did I leave the iron on? This team is just so frustrating lately, they have us questioning everything.

If the freefall doesn’t stop and they miss the post-season, I wonder if the front office reconsiders bringing him back for 2017-18, especially if better options become available in the interim. It was something that seemed like a guarantee two weeks ago but another choke job will certainly make it a question worth asking. That is, of course, if the current iteration of the front office is still making that call. There’s an awful lot at stake for this franchise over the last eight games.

Beggars can’t be choosers but should they get in the playoffs, who would be the best match-up for the Bruins? Ricky, Fall River, MA

Now that they pissed away their Atlantic Division standing, the Bs are most likely going to be the #8 seed/2nd Wild Card team should they get in. So the Pittsburgh Penguins would be the best series for them, by far. For whatever reason, the Bruins have had pretty good success against the Pens in the last few years so they’d be a much better draw than the Braden Holtby-led Washington Capitals and perhaps even both Ontario teams (Toronto and Ottawa).

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask misses practice, uncertain for Saturday vs. Islanders

03.24.17 at 3:27 pm ET
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Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask missed Friday's practice. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask missed Friday’s practice. (Walter Tychnowicz/USA TODAY Sports)

Just 12 hours after he was called out for his poor performance (something he did not deny in his postgame media availability), Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was missing from Friday’s practice in Brighton.

“Tuukka had a maintenance day,” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said after the skate. “He’s getting a little work done.”

And though he wasn’t on the ice for Friday’s practice, and with the Bruins mired in a four-game slump, the fix starts with the goaltender stepping up with a massive showing, according to Cassidy.

“A shutout usually works best to be honest with you,” Cassidy said when asked how the club can get their minds and focus back where they need to be. “If we could pitch one of those, [we] get back on track, but that’s putting all your eggs in one basket on one person.”

It’s a seemingly tall task to ask of the 30-year-old Rask, who has started the third-most games in the NHL this season and looks every bit of that mark, and without a shutout to his name since Feb. 12 against the Canadiens, which came 14 games ago.

But a strong finish in the crease is what this team needs to stay afloat right now, especially if their even-strength scoring — or lack thereof — continues to be a source of frustration for the B’s during this season-high losing streak.

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Bruins sign forward Ryan Fitzgerald, defenseman Emil Johansson to entry-level contracts

03.24.17 at 1:40 pm ET
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The Bruins have signed Ryan Fitzgerald to an entry-level contract. (Ty Anderson/WEEI)

The Bruins have signed Ryan Fitzgerald to an entry-level contract. (Ty Anderson/WEEI)

Let the college signing spree begin.

With most NCAA seasons wrapped up, and with Bruins general manager Don Sweeney expected to make decisions on many of the club’s college prospects (or for the prospect to make his own decision), the Bruins made their first move on Friday and officially inked their first college standout with the signing of forward Ryan Fitzgerald.

Inked to a two-year entry-level deal that will begin in 2017-18, Fitzgerald, a fourth-round draft pick (120th overall) of the club in 2013, makes his jump to the pro game after a solid four-year run with the Boston College Eagles. In four years under the legendary Jerry York’s watch, Fitzgerald scored 66 goals and 132 points in 152 games.

An alternate captain for his senior season, the North Reading, Mass. native chipped in with 12 goals and 31 points in 34 games played.

Fitzgerald is the son of former NHL player and Billerica, Mass. native Tom Fitzgerald, who skated in over 1,000 games in the NHL, including 71 for the Bruins in 2005-06. Often seen around TD Garden, Tom is currently serves as the assistant general manager of the Devils.

Ryan’s cousins include Bruins winger Jimmy Hayes, Rangers forward Kevin Hayes, and the Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk (and his dad Keith).

Up next for the Bruins: Boston University’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson or Charlie McAvoy, and/or Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork.

The club also signed defenseman Emil Johansson, a seventh rounder (206th overall) in 2014, to a three-year entry-level deal.

The 20-year-old Johansson most recently suited up for Djurgardens IF of the Swedish League, where he posted seven goals (tied for the team lead among defensemen) and 17 points (the second-most among team blueliners) in 47 games played. And much like Fitzgerald’s deal, Johansson’s contract will not kick into the mix until the start of the 2017-18 season.

Fitzgerald will report to the P-Bruins and finish his season on an amateur tryout agreement, while Johansson will report to Providence on a professional tryout agreement.

Blowing leads early and often is getting old for struggling Bruins

03.24.17 at 5:40 am ET
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The Bruins saw three leads rapidly evaporate before their eyes on Thursday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins saw three leads rapidly evaporate before their eyes on Thursday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

When the Bruins blew their first lead of the night on Thursday, it was far from ideal, but it was acceptable at that stage of the game. It was fair to expect some pushback from a Lightning club that’s even closer to death’s door than the Bruins. When the B’s blew their second lead of the night, it became annoying and cause for concern in what should have been a mismatch considering the Bolts’ poor health and inconsistent play. And when the Bruins blew their third and final lead of a night that finished as a 6-3 loss for the club, it became downright unacceptable for a team that’s worked themselves into as much trouble as the Bruins have over the course of their four-game losing skid.

How does this happen to this team with so much on the line in this game, not once, not twice, but three times. In the same period, no less.

“I think if there was an easy answer, we would’ve solved it after the first or second time to be quite honest,” Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy said after the loss, the club’s fourth in a row, a new season high (and longest since the five-game slide around this time a year ago). “It happened the other night against Ottawa, as well.”

It actually goes beyond Ottawa, too.

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Watch Penguins captain Sidney Crosby slash Marc Methot’s fingertip off

03.24.17 at 4:25 am ET
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Hey, so this is gross. No, like, this is really gross.

I’m warning you.

(Please don’t say that I didn’t warn you.)

Late in the first period of Thursday’s head-to-head between the Senators and visiting Penguins, Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby hacked at Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot as Methot entered into the Pittsburgh zone on a four-on-four sequence.

Methot let out a scream, played stopped, and it was obvious to why he was in pain as soon as his glove came off.

Oh, God. I knew it was coming and it was still gross.

The dude legitimately lost part of his fingertip because of a Crosby slash. While these slashes are far from uncommon, rarely do you ever see a player with as much damage to their hand or finger as Methot did when he left the game.

“His finger is destroyed,” Sens coach Guy Boucher said of Methot after the game. “It’s shattered and he’s out for weeks.”

Crosby, who was not penalized for the slash on the play, tried to plead his case after the game.

“I was just trying to get his stick and I think I caught his finger judging by his reaction and their reaction,” said Crosby, who also got away with a vicious spear to Ryan O’Reilly’s midsection the other day. “I’ve gotten those before. They don’t feel good.”

Groin shots, finger removals, and zero penalties. All in a week for the game’s best player. Curious to see if Crosby picks up a minor for actually beheading somebody on the ice this weekend. Matching minors at the very best for the beheaded, maybe.

Zdeno Chara hits Bruins milestone in losing effort

03.24.17 at 3:12 am ET
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Zdeno Chara hit a milestone with his second shorthanded goal of the season. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara hit a milestone with his second shorthanded goal of the season. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

On a night of few positives as the club’s losing streak reached a season-worst four games, this one by a 6-3 final at the hands of the Lightning, the Bruins found just one as the 40-year-old Zdeno Chara accomplished something not seen in over two decades.

With the Bruins on the penalty kill in the second period, and with Chara’s go-to pairing partner in the box, the Bruins started a rush up ice and loose puck found its way to a storming Chara. And with a slight assist from the Lightning’s Victor Hedman, who helped steer the puck Chara’s with a botched clearing attempt, Chara sniped the B’s second goal of the night home against the Bolts’ Peter Budaj for a 2-1 lead.

In what was Chara’s eighth goal of the season, the shorthanded marker stood as Big Z’s second shortie of the season, which makes him the first Bruins defenseman to record multiple shorthanded goals in a season since Ray Bourque accomplished the feat in 1995-96 (two goals).

It also makes Chara just the eighth defenseman in team history to hit that milestone — Bourque did it three times, Bobby Orr accomplished it a franchise-best four times, while Don Sweeney, Glen Wesley, Dick Redmond, and Dallas Smith each scored multiple shorties one time during their respective Bruins tenures — and just the 17th NHL defender to do it since 2005.

Still, the shorthanded goal could not save a B’s penalty kill that surrendered two power-play goals in the loss, both from Nikita Kucherov, and finished the night with just three kills on five stints down a skater.

“We had obviously some bad bounces. It’s going to happen, the last one. We need to be better. Starts obviously with us, who are out on the ice,” Chara said of the team’s penalty kill, which has allowed seven goals on their last 19 times shorthanded. “We need to take away other team’s top plays, give them as little as possible, and be willing to do whatever it takes to kill those, and yeah, we need to be better. I mean, it’s been working for us the whole year. We know we can do the job. Obviously, it’s slipped the past few games. We need to go back, and bounce back and be on a roll, and kill those penalties.”

Chara has played a league-high 250:16 of shorthanded time on ice this season.

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