The post-Tuukka Rask era begins in earnest for the Boston Bruins on Saturday night as they host the Dallas Stars in their season opener at TD Garden.
Boston will open a season without Rask on its roster for the first time in 14 years. The 34-year-old former Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip over the offseason and remains a free agent after his contract expired.
The Bruins haven’t ruled out a possible return for Rask — or longtime center David Krejci, who opted to play in his native Czech Republic instead of returning for a 16th season with the Bruins.
Rask reportedly could be ready to play as soon as January or February. In the meantime, the Bruins will have to make do with six-year veteran netminder Linus Ullmark and second-year prospect Jeremy Swayman. Boston announced that Swayman will start Saturday’s season opener.
“Linus and I, we’re great friends, he’s a great person. I love competing with him every day,” said Swayman, who was 7-3-0 with a .945 save percentage and a 1.50 goals-against average (GAA) in 10 starts last season. “Whatever we can do to help the team win, that’s what we’re going to do.”
The 22-year-old Swayman served as Rask’s backup for much of last season as Boston advanced to the second round of the playoffs before falling to the New York Islanders in six games.
Ullmark, 28, joined the Bruins on a four year, $20 million deal after spending his first six seasons with the Buffalo Sabres.
Dallas began its season with a victory in a 3-2 overtime thriller at the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
Miro Heiskanen scored 1:38 into the extra period to lift the Stars after they let an early 2-0 lead slip away. Jacob Peterson scored in the first period and Radek Faksa added a power-play tally early in the second before Dallas goaltender Braden Holtby (25 saves) conceded a pair of goals in a seven-minute span later in the period.
Holtby was replaced by former Bruins backup Anton Khudobin (six saves) midway through the third after the former’s helmet had jarred loose during play earlier in the period.
“We found a way to win,” said Stars center Joe Pavelski. “We weathered the storm on the road at (Madison Square Garden). Awesome on the guys with Dobie coming in and making great saves.”
Holtby and Khudobin are both plenty familiar with the Bruins. A longtime member of the Eastern Conference rival Washington Capitals, the 32-year-old Holtby has gone 18-4-0 — his most wins against a single opponent — with a .939 save percentage and a 1.98 GAA in 22 career games against them.
Khudobin, who helped propel the Stars to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, spent parts of four seasons as a backup in Boston, compiling a 33-16-9 record with a .914 save percentage and a 2.50 GAA over 62 games (58 starts).
The Stars and Bruins did not face off in last year’s pandemic-altered regular season schedule. Boston swept the two-game season series when the teams last met in the 2019-20 campaign, including a 2-1 win on opening night in Dallas.
–Field Level Media