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Chara treating Winter Classic like any other game

By Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

"I think that we all have to realize it is an important game. I think it's a big event; everybody is going to be watching it. But at the same time, you are playing for two points." -- Zdeno Chara

For just about everyone involved with the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston, it will be a celebration of outdoor hockey, a New Year's Day party with the Bruins and Flyers skating in a storied baseball stadium on a special, once-in-a-lifetime kind of day.

For Bruins defenseman and captain Zdeno Chara, it will be an NHL regular-season game in which his team can capture two points against an Eastern Conference opponent.

Hey, someone always has to put the work into a party to make it fun for everyone else.

"For sure, it's going to be way more intense. With a 30,000, 40,000 audience, it's going to be a totally different atmosphere," Chara said. "But I'm going to prepare the same way I prepare for every game.

"I think that we all have to realize it is an important game. I think it's a big event; everybody is going to be watching it. But at the same time, you are playing for two points."

But it's an outdoor game, one that will bring back memories of skating on frozen ponds as an innocent child with your boyhood friends. You have to let your mind wander to that time as a boy in Slovakia, don't you?

"I think when I was a kid and playing outdoors, it's totally different," Chara said. "You just cruise around and you had a lot of fun with your neighborhood buddies. It was totally relaxed, and this is more business-wise."

Zdeno Chara. He's all business.

However, it's tough to begrudge one of the game's best defenseman from taking his job seriously and focusing on opponents on a game-by-game basis. After all, it's what turned Chara from a New York Islanders castoff into a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman with the Bruins.

Chara's offensive production has dropped a little this season (19 goals in 80 games last season; 2 goals in 35 games this season), but he remains a rock along the Bruins' blue line. The 32-year-old has found his game in December, posting 1 goal and 5 assists in eight games. Chara is plus-9 for the season and has been a plus-8 this month.

Still, the Bruins' offensive woes as a whole are tough to ignore. After finishing second in the League in 2008-09 in goals scored, this year's team is second-to-last with only 90 goals in 35 games. Some of the decline can be attributed to the loss of 36-goal scorer Phil Kessel to Toronto and extended injuries to Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. But Chara feels the Bruins have the players to turn the offense around.

"It's been a little bit different this season from last season," Chara said. "But you know, I still believe that we have good enough players to put up the numbers. Obviously if the management feels that they need to add and improve our team, it's obviously up to them and it's their decision. But obviously it's up to us to perform and be more productive.

"I think that it's all around the League. I think that a lot of teams, basically, it's hard to score goals. Everybody is playing so well defensively, and it's just harder to score goals. A lot of the shots are getting blocked; goaltenders are playing extremely well. Overall, the game is really improving and it is hard to score goals."

The Bruins have four games between now and the Winter Classic to get the offense going. They play two home games against the Thrashers with a trip to Florida to face the Panthers and Lightning sandwiched in the middle. And even if those games don't help lead to the end of the scoring troubles for Boston, maybe the excitement of playing at Fenway Park can inspire the team?

There's excitement for the game in Boston, right, Zdeno?

"Well, I think everybody is really excited, especially the fans and the whole organization," Chara said. "It's basically for most of us, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I'm sure it's going to be great."

Catch the fever!

Contact Dave Lozo at dlozo@nhl.com