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Stopgap plan in net

Rask injury hits at very bad time

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 7, 2012
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TORONTO - Even in the texts he has exchanged with Tuukka Rask, Shawn Thornton can detect the goalie’s disappointment.

“He’s a little bummed, but he’ll be back at the end of this month, hopefully,’’ said Thornton, one of Rask’s closest friends. “That’s a positive.’’

The Bruins goalie could be out for the rest of the regular season because of a lower abdomen/groin strain he suffered last Saturday against the Islanders.

The injury, which will sideline Rask for 4-6 weeks, would have been unfortunate at any point in the season. But his absence is amplified because of the situation.

The Bruins are entering the heaviest grind of the season. Tim Thomas, who hasn’t been at his sharpest, will require pacing heading into the postseason. Anton Khudobin, Providence’s No. 1 goalie, was unavailable for recall because of a wrist injury. And the Feb. 27 trade deadline has passed.

“It’s kind of an imperfect storm,’’ said general manager Peter Chiarelli, who noted that Rask will be out closer to six weeks than four. “But every team has their injuries and deals with them. Khudobin is a guy we worked hard to put into the No. 3. He’s hurt now. It is what it is.’’

Marty Turco, who was an NHL Network analyst earlier this season, will now be counted on to replace Rask as Thomas’s backup. If Turco clears waivers by noon Wednesday, he will report to Boston. Chiarelli termed Turco’s chances of being claimed at 50-50.

“It’s unfortunate for Tuukka,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “He’s had a good year. We were really counting on him to help us down the stretch with the number of games that we have coming up. It’s an unfortunate injury at a real bad time of year.

“We hope to have Turco with us. It will give us that experience and the type of backup goaltender we need to keep moving forward here down the stretch.’’

The Bruins had few options other than Turco, who had been playing for EC Red Bull Salzburg in Austria. There are no other free agent goalies available. Khudobin is out at least two weeks, Chiarelli said.

If Turco doesn’t clear waivers, the Bruins will wait until Khudobin is healthy, and Michael Hutchinson, who was called up from Providence, will back up Thomas. It is unlikely that Hutchinson would start before Khudobin is available.

“That would be the plan at the very least - to have him play and to spell Tim,’’ said Chiarelli of Turco. “Playing in Europe and the fact that he’s actually played is good.

“The fact that a goalie like that is available after the trade deadline is fortunate to a certain degree. But there are other teams that need some goaltending help also.’’

For the Bruins, the most important thing is for Thomas to reclaim his dominant swagger, preferably sooner than later. He hasn’t approached the brilliance he showed last year. But the Bruins also need him to be peaking in the playoffs.

“History’s shown that it’s important to spell him,’’ said Chiarelli. “But in his earlier years, he’s also played a ton of games in a row. In an ideal situation, you want him rested for the playoffs. That’s what we’re trying to do.’’

Turco is present

Turco arrived in Toronto Tuesday from Austria. After the 5-4 win, he stood outside the dressing room and shook hands with what he hopes will be his future teammates. Turco traveled on the team charter to Boston, where he will wait out the final hours before the noon deadline.

“I’m very lucky that they even asked,’’ Turco said. “It’s unfortunate that Rask had to go down. But to finish out the season here would be awesome. I’m crossing my fingers that the waivers will go through.’’

Last year, as an NHL Network analyst, Turco was behind a microphone and in front of a camera for the Bruins’ Cup run. He hoped to find puck-stopping employment to start 2011-12, but his only sniff came from overseas.

Turco didn’t think the NHL would come calling once more.

“I assumed it was not coming,’’ he said. “At moments, you can hang your head and sit by the phone. I’ve had moments like that. But I’ve skated all year with the notion of going to play in the NHL again.’’

On their own

Andrew Ference (lower body) and Daniel Paille (upper body) resumed skating back home Tuesday. They remain day-to-day . . . Benoit Pouliot was limited to 4:50 of ice time because of a lower-body injury. “I don’t even know how severe it is,’’ Julien said. “We may see him in next game.’’ Julien said it was more precautionary that Pouliot didn’t finish the game . . . Dennis Seidenberg doesn’t have a reputation for fighting, but at 8:36 of the second, he didn’t like a hit that Colby Armstrong threw at his head. Adam McQuaid tried to challenge Armstrong, but Seidenberg shed his gloves and fought his own fight. Seidenberg bloodied Armstrong, who didn’t return. “He hit me, and I felt like he didn’t have to go to the head,’’ Seidenberg said . . . Nathan Horton (concussion) is riding the stationary bike but has not started skating again. Chiarelli said there is no timetable as to when Horton could be back on the ice. Chiarelli remains hopeful that Horton will be available for the playoffs. The right wing suffered his concussion Jan. 22 . . . Toronto signed center Mikhail Grabovski to a five-year, $27.5 million contract before Tuesday’s game . . . Lane MacDermid played in his second career game and landed six hits in 8:41 of ice time . . . Mike Mottau was the healthy scratch.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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