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Capitals-Bruins Preview

By KEVIN CHROUST

STATS Writer

(AP) -- The Boston Bruins' Olympic goaltender is finally back with the team and ready to get back between the pipes on NHL ice.

Tuukka Rask has returned to practice and figures to play Saturday at home against the Washington Capitals, who are out to match their longest winning streak of the season.

"It was a lot of fun," Rask told the team's official website about helping Finland to the bronze medal. "It was more fun than I imagined, but it's over now, and we're back here, back in business. Happy to be back, missed the guys."

The Bruins (37-16-5) could have used him in their first game after the Olympic break, a 5-4 overtime loss at Buffalo on Wednesday. Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara and Chris Kelly scored but Chad Johnson allowed five goals on 26 shots.

The backup had won his previous five starts and still hasn't lost in regulation since a Dec. 28 relief appearance.

Boston coach Claude Julien placed blame on a poor defensive effort.

"I thought offensively, I didn't mind our game," said Julien, whose team holds a six-point lead in the Atlantic Division and is trying to close a five-point gap with Pittsburgh for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference. "You score four goals, you should win those kind of games. But certainly, we were definitely rusty defensively."

They now begin a stretch of 17 games in 31 days, with six sets of back-to-backs in that span.

"The good news is that we've been through it before, so it's nothing new for us, but we just have to approach it the right way and make sure we get our rest in the right times, and really dig deep in those game situations," Rask said. "It's going to be tough, but as I said, we've been through it before and we have the experience and leadership here to get through it and finish it off on the right note."

The Capitals (28-23-9) were on the right end of a 5-4 final Thursday against Florida in their return from the break. They've wrapped three straight wins around the layoff, and extending the streak would match their season best that came at the start of November.

Troy Brouwer scored twice, Brooks Laich added a goal and two assists and Alex Ovechkin recorded his league-leading 41st goal in the final 5 minutes to put Washington ahead for good. The star forward, though, wasn't blown away by his team's play.

"I think we had a pretty good game, but a couple of mistakes, a couple of turnovers almost cost us points," said Ovechkin, who added two assists. "But it's good we bounced back and finished."

Braden Holtby made 30 saves but allowed at least four goals for the third time in five contests. He's 3-0 with a 2.24 goals-against average in three career regular-season games against Boston.

Despite the win streak, the Capitals are still trying to recover from a rough January that included a seven-game skid. They're three points out of the second wild-card spot in the East.

"We're trying to make a good playoff push and we need everyone to contribute to try and find ways to get points like we did (Thursday)," said Brouwer, who has five goals in his last three games.

This meeting with Boston will be the first of three this season, all of which will take place in March.

The Capitals beat the Bruins twice in overtime at home last season and lost in the only game at Boston.

Updated February 28, 2014

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