For the third straight season, a preview of Life Without Zdeno Chara has hit the Bruins.
Injured in the second period of last night’s 4-2 loss to the Blues and absent from Wednesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney confirmed via press release that Chara has suffered a lower-body injury that will keep him out of a Thanksgiving night tilt against the Senators.
It’s unclear how or where Chara sustained the injury (the best guess was a collision with the Blues’ Jaden Schwartz in the corner on his one, 52-second shift in the second period), but the Bruins will have to make do without their best defender for at least the Ottawa game, but perhaps the club’s signature Black Friday home game against Dougie Hamilton and the Flames also.
“He’s not coming on the road trip, obviously” B’s coach Claude Julien confirmed after practice. “From what I’ve been told, he’s day to day. Day to day to me I think it’s pretty doubtful for these next two games.
After that, we’ll see. So that’s where we are with him.”
The 39-year-old captain has been a rock on a top-pairing with 19-year-old rookie Brandon Carlo, with a team-leading 22:41 of time on ice per contest this season, and has chipped in with one goal and six points to go with his plus-12 rating. Chara also ranks 12th among defenseman with at least 300 minutes of five-on-five time on ice in Corsi-For%, at 53.0%, for a B’s club that’s currently leading the league in possession at five-on-five play. So his loss, even for a game, is noticeable.
“I think I’m going to answer it the same way the same way I answered it at the beginning of the year when you guys asked me about our d-corps,” Julien, whose team is allowing just 27.3 shots per game (the third-best mark in the league in that category), said of somebody else shouldering the load in Chara’s absence. “We’re going to have to do it by committee.”
Without Chara, the Bruins’ defensive committee reunited their training camp pairing with John-Michael Liles and Carlo, while the second pairing of Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid has become a de facto first pairing for the club. Joe Morrow remained on the left side of the team’s third pairing, and Kevan Miller, out for the first 19 games of the season with a fractured left hand that finished his preseason slate, has been cleared for action and skated to Morrow’s right.
This is not the first time the Bruins have to skate without their captain — Chara missed 19 games in 2014-15 and then the first two games of last season — but with a personnel group that’s changed drastically from 2014 to 2015, and even 2015 to now, Julien knows that there’s no quick-fix, plug-and-play option that’ll mask the loss of the club’s go-to shutdown talent.
“We just lost our best defender,” Julien admitted.
“There’s no individual that’s going to step up and do his job more than we’re going to have to do it as a group.”
The Bruins have gone 11-9-1 without Chara over the last two seasons, including an 0-2-0 mark last season.