NHL stars Tuukka Rask, Nikita Kucherov set for return to game action | CBC Sports

Goalkeeper Tuukka Rask is inching closer to a return to the Boston Bruins, signing a professional tryout agreement with AHL Providence on Thursday.

Rask, currently a free agent, has spent 14 seasons with the Bruins. He is the franchise leader in wins, but he hasn’t played in the NHL since undergoing off-season labrum surgery on his hip.

He has been working out at the Bruins’ training facility for more than two months and eyeing the resumption of his career, which includes two All-Star selections and winning the 2013-14 Vezina Trophy and 2019-20 Jennings Trophy. He also was the No. 2 goalie on Boston’s 2010-11 team that won the Stanley Cup.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said the 34-year-old Rask has been cleared to play and will start Friday when Providence hosts Lehigh Valley on Friday. It will be his first game action since June when he allowed four goals in a Game 6 loss to the New York Islanders in Boston’s second-round loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I feel great,” Rask said Thursday during a video conference call with reporters. “The biggest issue for me was the catching of the joint and the pain that created. So that all is gone. I don’t have to think about it locking up on me again and creating that pain, so I feel great.”

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He said the pain in the hip lingered throughout last season.

“It’s just one of those wear and tear situations that I think when you hit enough miles your body just starts to break up on you,” Rask said.

Rask said he expects to play two games in Providence before working out a contract to return to the Bruins. He doesn’t expect it to be difficult to hammer out a deal.

“The biggest point for me was if I feel great I want to try to come back,” he said. “The only thing I want to do at this point is try to help out. I’m not looking for a big contract like I’ve said before. I just want to come and help out the guys and do my part that way.”

Kucherov back after 32 missed games

Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov is set to return Thursday night against Calgary after missing 32 games with a lower-body injury that required surgery.

Kucherov got hurt chasing a puck during the third period Oct. 16 at Washington. The high-scoring forward appeared to be injured in the groin-abdominal area.

“He’s ready to go,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after Thursday’s morning skate. “We expect him to play.”

Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos did not participate in the morning skate due to an undisclosed issue, with Cooper saying it will be a “game-time decision” if he plays against the Flames.

Kucherov sat out the abbreviated 2020-21 regular season following hip surgery, but he returned for the playoffs and had a league-leading 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 23 games as the Lightning won their second consecutive Stanley Cup.

“We’re super excited about it,” Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman said. “He just brings a different element to our game and is going to make us a lot better.”

Tampa Bay (22-8-5) entered Thursday with an NHL-best 49 points.

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