David Pastrnak and the Boston Bruins will try to build off the emotional high of getting their longtime goalie back when they host the Western Conference-leading Nashville Predators on Saturday afternoon.
Boston earned a 3-2 home victory over Philadelphia in Tuukka Rask's long-awaited season debut. Rask stopped 25 shots in his first game since last June after undergoing offseason hip surgery. He rejoined the team this week, signing a one-year deal as a free agent.
"It was great to see the fans' support -- the best fans," Rask said. "It feels like I was home."
Pastrnak celebrated the occasion with his 11th career hat trick, capping his trick with a goal at 16:45 of the second period to snap a 2-all tie and put the Bruins in front for good. It was Boson's season-high fourth straight win and seventh in eight games.
"I was ready to leave it all out there for (Tuukka)," Pastrnak said. "I told him I'm going to get a hat trick before the game and he didn't believe me."
Rask will not be in net when the Bruins take on the Predators. Veteran Linus Ullmark will instead get the nod against Nashville, a team he owns a 1-3-0 career record against with a .897 save percentage and a 3.50 goals-against average.
On Friday, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said defenseman Derek Forbort skated with the team after clearing the NHL's COVID-19 protocol. Cassidy also said forward Nick Foligno (lower-body injury) skated on his own and is progressing toward a return.
Meanwhile, defenseman Trent Frederic (upper body) missed the past two games and is considered unlikely to be available against Nashville.
Nashville will be looking to bounce back from a 4-1 home loss to Buffalo on Thursday that snapped the Predators' five-game winning streak.
Matt Duchene netted the lone Nashville goal to tie the game at 1-1 at 13:12 of the second period before goalie Juuse Saros (17 saves) surrendered goals to Jeff Skinner late in the second period and eight minutes into the third, sending the Sabres on their way.
Duchene's goal was his 17th of season, putting him one behind the pace of Filip Forsberg's team-leading tally of 18.
"Definitely not our best game," Nashville captain Roman Josi said. "We came out kind of flat, didn't have a good first period. ... It's a tough league to win in when you're not at your best."
The loss came on the heels of a 5-4 overtime victory over Colorado in which Duchene netted a power-play winner 3:01 into the extra period.
"The big thing moving forward is we learned whatever we did from after the Colorado game, to get ready for the Buffalo game as coaches and players, certainly wasn't good enough," Predators coach John Hynes said. "(Next) we're playing a hot Boston team. They're playing really well right now, it's going to be a big challenge in their building and we've got to get ready here."
Against Buffalo, Nashville played without Forsberg and forward Yakov Trenin, who were in COVID protocols. Defenseman Mark Borowiecki was also sidelined and is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
On Friday, the Predators announced that they had reassigned forward Matt Luff and Cole Smith to the team's taxi squad.
Boston earned a 2-0 win at Nashville on Dec. 2 in the teams' first meeting this season.
--Field Level Media