Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has been granted a leave of absence as he deals with a "personal matter," the team announced in a statement on Friday.
The Bruins didn't disclose what the matter was, but captain Patrice Bergeron offered full support for the 31-year-old Rask and called him a "great friend," who is in his 12th year with the organization now.
Rask relieved Jaroslav Halak in Thursday's 8-5 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, allowing three goals on 14 shots. Rask is 4-4-0 on the season with a 3.05 goals against average and .901 save percentage.
He's struggled considerably in the 2018-19 season, which led to head coach Bruce Cassidy making Halak the starter. Rask also struggled at the beginning of last season, but he finished with 34 wins and a .917 save percentage - guiding Boston to its second straight playoff berth.
Boston sits fourth in the Atlantic Division with an 8-5-2 record on the season, and now the pressure is on Halak and the other veterans to step up without their star goalie. It's unknown how long Rask will step away for, but it gives Halak a chance to show that he's capable of carrying the load as the starter throughout 2018-19.
The 2014 Vezina Trophy winner sits at 242-141-53 for his career, with a 2.27 goals against average and .922 save percentage. Rask won a Stanley Cup ring with the Bruins in 2011, backing up Tim Thomas as the franchise ended its 39-year title drought. Rask also guided the Bruins to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final - which they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
Rask has been one of the NHL's elite goalies over the last five years now. The Bruins have been sluggish after a hot start, so it's imperative that they find their groove while Rask deals with a matter that's more important than hockey.