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Heavy burden not wearing on -- or wearing down -- goalie Rask

Goalie Tuukka Rask has played in 51 games this season; his career high is 58. AP Photo/Larry MacDougal

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Goaltender Tuukka Rask doesn’t need daily affirmation to know that he’s healthy, well-rested and ready to play the majority of the Boston Bruins' remaining regular-season games.

The Bruins enter Friday in position for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, only two points ahead of the Florida Panthers, who lost to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

Boston has 22 games remaining in the regular season, and Rask should play nearly all of them. Nothing against backup Niklas Svedberg, but the Bruins need all the points they can get -- meaning a heavy dose of Rask will almost certainly be required to secure a postseason berth.

Rask has played 51 games this season with a 24-16-9 record, including a 2.37 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. His current career high is 58 games, set last season, so he should exceed that total.

The 27-year-old has played 18 consecutive games and is showing zero sign of fatigue.

“I feel great,” Rask said. “It’s tough but no complaints. Honestly, I don’t feel that bad. Obviously, you play [18] games in a row you’re going to feel fatigued, but the more you play and you battle that mental fatigue, you kind of try to put all your energy on the right things and you don’t overthink the play and the game. So, it’s been working well and we’ll see.”

When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, Tim Thomas played 57 games in goal during the regular season. Once the puck dropped on the Stanley Cup playoffs, Thomas was ready and provided one of the greatest goaltending performances in postseason history en route to a championship.

When the Bruins returned to the finals in 2013, Rask led the way. During the lockout-shortened, 48-game season, he played 36 games in a short period of time, but it’s not fair to compare what he did in 2013 to the number of games he’ll finish with this season.

Bruins coach Claude Julien generally plays his top netminder in the range of 55 to 60 games during the regular season. Given all the struggles the Bruins have experienced this season, Julien has been forced to play Rask more than usual.

“It’s a lot of games, and for every goalie it’s individual what’s the optimal amount of games,” Rask said. “I’ve played 45. I’ve played 55 and whatever I played last year [58], so this year it will be a career high and I feel the same.”

Rask is well aware of his workload. With the team in the thick of the playoff chase, he’s trying to stay focused, healthy and avoid burnout.

“Obviously you want to play as much as you can and feel good about your game," Rask said. "Right now I’m feeling good and the biggest thing is just managing rest and make sure you don’t burn out, because once you play 65, 70 games with no breaks, it might hurt you in the long run, or in the playoffs, because you’re obviously prepared for a 20-plus-game postseason. If you manage your rest everything will be fine."

Julien has tried to give Rask time off, but it hasn’t worked. The Bruins have six remaining back-to-back sets, so it’s likely Svedberg (5-5-0 in 13 games) will be asked to spell Rask in at least a couple of those.

Despite Rask’s workload, Julien has been pleased with the goalie’s durability.

“He feels strong,” Julien said.