Zdeno Chara has been a picture of health for much of his career. From 2006-07 to 2013-14, he had missed all of 20 games as a member of the Boston Bruins. But for the second time in three seasons, there’s concern that Chara could be on the shelf for more than a handful of games due to a lower-body injury.
Chara, 39, left Tuesday’s game against the St. Louis Blues with a lower-body injury early in the second frame, and, in what was a rare occurrence from the Bruins’ captain, he did not return to action. All told, he skated a mere 9:04 in the contest before being unable to return, and it sounds as if he’s already been ruled out for Boston’s Thursday outing against the Ottawa Senators.
In a release from the Bruins Wednesday, the team announced only that Chara suffered a lower-body injury and would not travel to Ottawa, and an update is said to be coming ahead of Boston’s Friday contest against the Calgary Flames.
It almost goes without saying, but any prolonged loss of Chara would be terrible news for the Bruins, even more so given his loss was all too apparent in the 4-2 loss to the Blues.
"He's our captain, our leader, and he plays in all situations, so when he leaves, it's noticeable," Torey Krug said, according to BostonBruins.com’s Caryn Switaj. "I thought our guys did a decent job of stepping up, but they scored a couple goals right after he left and that obviously played a part in the game.”
With Chara out of the lineup, it was Krug who was called upon to step up, and that could be a sign of what’s to come in Chara’s absence, however long that may be.
Krug logged a season-high 24:44 against the Blues, which signalled a huge leap from the 21:11 he’s been averaging for much of the year. Massive increases were also seen for John-Michael Liles, up to 21:52 from his 16:35 average, and Joe Morrow, who saw nearly a four-minute jump from the 15:46 he’s averaged throughout the year.
Not everyone saw their ice time increase, though, as Brandon Carlo, the rookie rearguard who has been taken under Chara’s wing, saw two fewer minutes of action than his season average. Carlo admitted he understood why.
"I struggled a little bit in the second, for sure — definitely some responsibility on me for those goals," Carlo said, according to Switaj. "But I think, regardless, I've got to play my game and play the right way regardless of who is across from me. Definitely a little more responsibility on myself too to get in better positions there and keep those ones out of the net.”
And while the team as a whole would no doubt struggle or be hurt by the loss of Chara, no single player will feel that impact as much as Carlo. The two have been near inseparable this season. Carlo has played only 39 total 5-on-5 minutes without Chara as his partner, and a handful of those came in Tuesday’s outing. The results haven’t been great for Carlo without Chara, either.
While it’s absolutely a small sample size, Carlo has managed just a 47.9 Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5 without Chara by his side, and that number has leapt up to 52.1 percent when Carlo’s skating alongside the towering blueliner. Part of that has to do with zone starts, to be sure, but it was clear in Carlo’s effectiveness on Tuesday that there’s a certain level of comfort playing with Chara.
But Carlo, like everyone else, may need to get used to playing without ‘Big Z’ for the next few outings if the injury is serious. For the time being, everyone is holding out hope that the veteran defender has only suffered a minor knock.
"Hopefully it's very temporary and he'll be back in short order, but if not, we've got to have different guys pick up the slack and move forward,” Bruins winger David Backes said, according to Switaj. "He's obviously an awesome player, but we're going to have injuries to guys and we need to spread the wealth and all shoulder a little bit more load and find ways to win games.”
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