RALEIGH, N.C. -- Despite concerns to the contrary, Aaron Ward will be in the Boston Bruins' lineup for Tuesday's Game 6 here at the RBC Center (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS).
Ward, part of Boston's top defensive pair with Zdeno Chara, was injured at the tail end of Boston's series-extending Game 5 victory Sunday when Carolina's Scott Walker joined a scrum between Ward and Matt Cullen and threw a punch that connected with Ward's left eye.
The veteran defensemen underwent two days of testing because team doctors feared Ward might have suffered a broken orbital bone and there were serious concerns that he would be unavailable for Game 6. But Ward went through a rigorous morning skate Tuesday without any noticeable limitations.
"Mentally, I'm a little rattled with 47 cameras in my face over watching a YouTube replay for the past two days, over something so irrelevant to the game," Ward said as he faced the media for the first time since the incident. "Hopefully, I can refocus at 12:30 (p.m.), the pre-game meal, and put it all behind me."
There is still some discomfort around the eye, but not enough to preclude Ward from playing in what could be Boston's final game if it doesn't find a way to win Game 6.
"The doctor saw something in the X-ray, (I was) advised to wear a visor," Ward said. “(I) haven't worn one in 16 years and I'm not going to start now."
Bruins coach Claude Julien is happy that Ward will be in the lineup. He and Chara are often deployed against Carolina’s top line. Julien says there were legitimate fears that Ward would not be able to answer the bell for Game 6.
"There was concern (yesterday) about it and it looked even more like he wasn't going to play," Julien said. "I guess we got a little bit lucky here and we've got a guy back in our lineup and, hopefully, (he's) ready to play."
Both player and coach stressed, however, that for them all the hoopla around the incident and the lack of a suspension being levied by the League to Walker is now a thing of the past.
"There's no doubt you have to block that stuff out," Julien said. "It is one of those situations where you have to focus on what's important right now and the important thing is certainly to win.
And, how do the Bruins plan to go about winning Game 6 and forcing a Game 7 in Boston on Thursday night?
"Continuing to play the same as Game 5, that's it," Ward said.
Contact Shawn P. Roarke at email@example.com