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Has Bickell discovered a solution for Chara?

Saturday, 06.22.2013 / 10:24 AM

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer / Stanley Cup Final series blog

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Stanley Cup Final series blog
Has Bickell discovered a solution for Chara?

CHICAGO -- Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic revealed a sheepish smile when asked if he felt players on the Chicago Blackhawks were beginning to get the best of captain Zdeno Chara.

It was two days ago that Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell sprinkled a little fuel onto the fire when he declared Chara "doesn't like getting hit."

"Not a lot of guys attempt it, but to get a hit on him and to see him fall down, it's rare," Bickell said.

There isn't a player in the NHL who relishes being on the receiving end of a thunderous body check. Bickell, who was in Chara's face for much of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, had a first-period hit on the 6-foot-9 defenseman that sent him to the ice and, in effect, may have set the physical tone for the entire game.

Bickell, a 6-foot-4, 233-pound left wing for the Blackhawks, likely will continue to target Chara in Game 5 Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). Not surprisingly, Bickell leads his team and is third in the League with 77 hits in 21 playoff games.

In his most recent blog entry for NHL.com, Bickell wrote about his ongoing battle with Chara.

"My job now to help us win the Stanley Cup is to battle with and try to control Chara," he wrote. "It's not easy, but it's my role right now on the line I'm on with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. I've got to thrive in it because when I do I know it opens up ice for them."

It's also obvious Bickell has a lot of respect for Chara.

"He's the best defensive defenseman in the League today," he wrote. "But we need to wear him down and I need to hit him at any chance I get to slow him down and get him out of position. The battle with him for position in front of the net is difficult but I need to stick with it because I know if both of us get to the front of the net that plays to our advantage."

THough Lucic didn't actually say it, you could sense in his body language and commentary that he would offer the following message to Bickell entering Game 5: Good luck with that.

"Honestly, I don't know where they would get that scouting report from because [Chara] definitely doesn't mind physical play at all," Lucic said. "I've been with him for six years now and he's not a guy I see who gets worn down. Two days between games, I know he's gotten his rest and he's going to bring it [in Game 5]."

Chara has averaged a team-high 29:59 of ice time in 20 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and has 63 hits and 38 blocked shots, numbers third-most on the team. He was on the ice for five of Chicago's six goals in Boston's Game 4 loss, and that's something that rarely happens.

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2.

"He always has come out and he's always responded the next game," Lucic said. "He's our captain and he takes a lot of pride in doing what he does. Of all the guys that I've played with, I don't think there is a guy who prides himself more in how he approaches the game on and off the ice."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews offered this breakdown of Chara:

"There's certain ways you can expose him. The dump-ins that we made [in Game 4] were going to his side. We made sure we were outnumbering him everywhere we went, taking away his stick first. We just try not to be intimidated by his size. We can outwork him, and we did that [in Game 4]."

Toews said he believes his team needs to continue to make plays around and through Chara in order to have some measure of success against him.

Stay tuned …

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