Let's open with the good news from today's morning skate: For at least a few hours, the Bruins were officially cleared from the NHL's COVID-19 protocol list, with Jake DeBrusk finally cleared to play in Monday's matchup against the Flyers after being out of commission for over two weeks.
As for the bad news? Boston's clean sheet as far as the COVID-19 list goes only listed for all of a few hours — as Bruce Cassidy announced on Monday morning that Jaroslav Halak will be sidelined for an undetermined amount of time due to a positive test. With Halak sidelined and Tuukka Rask still recovering from an upper-body injury, Dan Vladar will start in net against the Flyers — with Jeremy Swayman serving as the backup.
"Jaro popped a positive test," Cassidy said. "We've got to follow up with more testing for him. He wasn't able to go out on the ice per protocol. Vladar was scheduled to start tonight. He's gonna stay in there and we'll worry about (Tuesday) when we get more info."
While Boston lost both DeBrusk and Sean Kuraly for weeks due to COVID protocols, being placed on the NHL's list does not signal a positive test. Other reasons can include possible symptoms, a false positive test, quarantine due to contact tracing, inconclusive results and more. False positives have been the case for multiple other Bruins that have landed on the COVID-19 list over the last month, such as Charlie Coyle and Brad Marchand.
Obviously, the Bruins are hoping for a similar false alarm when it comes to Halak. Even though Vladar has been very solid so far this season (.929 save percentage in three games), relying on two young netminders that ideally should be cutting their teeth down in the AHL is not a recipe for success — especially with no timeline currently in place for Rask to return.
"He's getting better," Cassidy said of Rask. "He's not playing tonight, he's not playing (Tuesday). He'll travel with us, get some work and see where it ends up."
DeBrusk details quarantine
For most of the last two-plus weeks, Jake DeBrusk has bided his time thanks to a steady diet of HBO Max (including rewatching all of Entourage), the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and FaceTime chats with family and friends back home. The at-home perks afforded by today's technology softened some of the blow brought upon by an extended quarantine stretch for DeBrusk — who did experience some COVID-19 symptoms during his time on the shelf.
"I had some symptoms, nothing too major," DeBrusk said. "It kind of came in midway through. Obviously, it was unfortunate. I lost my taste and smell. That was a little bit of a weird experience. Couple of weird days but nothing too major. It hits everyone differently and I got out of it pretty quick. I was able to recover fairly fast, nothing that affected the lungs."
The absence of respiratory issues is a good stroke of luck for DeBrusk, given that other athletes like Jayson Tatum have labored at times during their post-COVID timelines due to fatigue, breathing issues and more. DeBrusk had managed to skate a few times at Warrior Ice Arena before taking part in a full skate on Monday — helping him shake off the rust before his game action since March 18.
Even with the extended lay-off, DeBrusk doesn't believe it's going to take much for him to get up for his return to the ice.
"You have so much energy, you're just excited to see other human beings, let alone be on the ice. I pushed myself. Wasn't necessarily the optimal amount of time (get ready) with our schedule. It's kind of hard to get in some practices and stuff like that. If there's anyone that can do it, I think it's me. I feel ready to go. It will be a little bit different with game pace and game level."
Hopefully for DeBrusk, the extended time off doesn't cool off what was an encouraging stretch for him ahead of his positive test — as he recorded two goals and eight shots over four games since getting benched earlier in March. The last time he spoke with the media, he wasn't too thrilled after with the local scribes after criticism of his recent — using such irritation to fuel his play out on the ice.
While he perhaps isn't quite as ornery as he was following that game against the Rangers back on March 11 — DeBrusk is looking to keep that focused mindset as the B's head down the final, frantic stretch of the regular season.
"When things are kind of out of your control and you get COVID or something like that or kind of puts you in a different mind frame,” DeBrusk said. “And I was kind of it was good timing because this would have maybe a little bit earlier than I would have been probably a little bit different going into it.
“I’m more so mentally just here to help the team. I mean, I don’t really know if I need to be pissed off. I don’t really know what to expect coming in the game tonight. So I’m just coming in and playing and I’m just competing. Just try to win your 50-50 battles and use my speed.”
Patrice Bergeron is two points short of his 900th NHL point. He is now tied with Rick Middleton for fourth place on the franchise's all-time scoring list (898) and will take sole possession with his next point.
Kevan Miller took part in practice once again on Monday. While the veteran blueliner has not been given the green light to return to the lineup quite yet, Cassidy believes that he could be cleared ahead of Tuesday's rematch against the Flyers down in Philly.