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Bruins' Leadership Has Stayed Strong

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - Zdeno Chara's and David Krejci's absences have caused the Bruins to be without two captains for the past month.

Adam McQuaid's lead-by-example persona, especially for the young defensemen, is also missed.

The Bruins have gone 7-6-1 in games without both Chara and Krejci. They were 8-3-1 in November before a 1-3-0 start to December.

Chara (knee) has missed the past 19 games. Krejci (undisclosed) has missed eight straight, and 14 of the past 16. McQuaid (broken thumb) has missed eight straight. David Warsofsky (groin) has also been sidelined for the past 13 games.

Both Chara and Krejci were back practicing with the team on Tuesday morning. They stayed back in Boston last week to continue their respective recoveries, while the Bruins traveled West.

The Captain appears the closest to a return this Thursday, when the Bruins host the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden. He's seven weeks into his original recovery timetable of 4-6 weeks, and has been skating for two weeks. Head Coach Claude Julien is optimistic that Chara will be ready. Krejci's situation is harder to predict.

Whenever the captain and alternate captain do come back, they will give the Bruins a boost, both on the ice and in the room.

But there's also something to be said for the way the Black and Gold have handled the past month and half without important leaders and impact players.

To start the season, the Bruins' room had already gone through an adjustment. They had lost some loud voices before the season. Younger players were a bit shy.

It naturally takes time for a team to gel together and for everyone to become entirely comfortable. The Bruins hadn't experienced that the past few seasons.

They way struggled out of the gate, with players were coming in and out of the lineup, didn't help the situation. The absence of Chara less than a month into the season, coupled with Krejci's situation, amplified that.

"We want to bring that energy back and find a way to get that, and it just makes other guys talk more, and it's interesting to see who steps up every day and tried to fill that void," Brad Marchand said in early November. "But I think we're all coming together and building relationships, and that's what we need to do."

Fast forward another month, add in injury trouble (Marchand, Chris Kelly, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, McQuaid and Warsofsky all missed time in addition to Chara and Krejci), the team's first long road trip of the season in early December, a stretch of tough losses and a 7-4 loss in San Jose, and the team has no doubt taken a step forward with that dynamic through all of the difficulties they've faced.

Chemistry is not the be-all and end-all. Take, for example, Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney's remarks about his team when the B's were in town: "I think our team chemistry is good, but we’re in a results business, not a Kumbaya business.”

Results are ultimately what matter, and those are bred from accountability. That accountability comes from the coach, and comes from a strong room.

Kelly talked earlier this season about the uniqueness of a hockey locker room and the chemistry needed.

"You have to get along, you see each other every day - you have to hold each other accountable," he had said. Sometimes, especially as a young player, "You think too much - 'Am I doing this right? What does he think of me? What does Coach think of me?' Sometimes you just have to get back to like when you were a kid, and just came and played, and didn't think."

Without Chara and Krejci, Milan Lucic and Dennis Seidenberg have been wearing the "A" along with Kelly and Patrice Bergeron. Bruins like Brad Marchand have had to step up as well.

"I think our leadership's been actually pretty good and we know it from inside the dressing room door, and I don't think that's really been an issue," Julien said in Arizona, before the Bruins bounced back from their 7-4 loss.

"You can certainly benefit from having more leaders such as Zee and Krech coming in, but our guys have handled it well and again, we look back at what we've done in the month of November (going 8-3-1) and that should tell us that there's been some good leadership there to help us survive that."

As of Tuesday, the Bruins were still hanging on to the second Wild Card spot in the East with 31 points and a 15-12-1 record through 28 games. Florida sits just two points back. The Black and Gold wish they had themselves in a much better position.

"You know, we've been banged up for two months, so we're still in a playoff spot by a thread," said Julien. "But we need to pick up our game now, we know that. So I think we've managed it fairly well. We'll never be satisfied, we'll always want more, and that's the way we should look at if we want to have success."

"But when those guys return, it will certainly be a great welcome to our group. There's no doubt it will give our team a boost that we probably need right now. But there's a lot of guys that have been weathering the storm here and pushing hard to make up for the loss of some key players."

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