BOSTON - Following a brief summer respite that was limited by his recovery from both a broken jaw and a procedure on his elbow to remove loose bone fragments, Zdeno Chara has been back on the ice this week leading the Bruins through captains' practices at Warrior Ice Arena.
And while he has not appeared to be hampered by either injury, the 42-year-old is being cautious as he approaches his 22nd season in the National Hockey League.
"I'm not sure. I think that I should be," Chara said when asked if he will be ready for Opening Night. "But again, it's something that it's a process to make sure that there are no setbacks or any discomfort at this point."
It has been a tad over three months since Chara suffered the broken jaw after taking a deflected shot to the side of his chin during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. The blue liner required surgery that included the insertion of plates and pins into the jaw, but did not miss any games for the remainder of the series.
Nonetheless, Chara's recovery lasted well into the offseason, as he was unable to chew normally for close to a month after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final.
"I think that everything has been pretty much postponed by six, seven weeks with all the surgeries I had and the rehab I had to go through," said Chara, who has shed the full shield he was donning after the injury. "I'm still recovering. I'm still working on being at full strength, so it's still going on, the process of getting stronger and healthier…I'm glad that I'm able to enjoy the full spoons of food."
Video: Bruins captain Chara talks to media on Friday
In addition to his rehab, Chara acknowledged that there are other challenges - particularly on the mental side of things - that come with a shortened offseason.
"I think that a whole bunch of us have been through this before…I think that whether it's success or failure, you've just got to move on from that," said Chara, referring to the Bruins' previous Stanley Cup Final appearances in 2011 and 2013. "You've got to go on and live your life. These things are a part of your life and you learn from it. Just got to make sure that they don't affect you too deep.
"I think we all got the right message from the team that this preseason is going to be a little bit different. Just making sure that we all get ready and excited and enthusiastic about the start of the season."
Up for Grabs
Among the bevy of players that will be competing for what could be two open wing positions is Karson Kuhlman. The 23-year-old right shot out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth burst onto the scene last spring with a strong stretch run, playing mostly alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.
"Obviously that's one of the spots that I want to come and compete for at camp," said Kuhlman. "But at the same time, I just want to come here and show the coaching staff and management that I can stick in this league and really help this team win games."
With 11 NHL games already under his belt, Kuhlman is hoping that experience - albeit limited - will give him an edge this fall.
"I think it gave me a lot of confidence," said Kuhlman, who also suited up for eight postseason games, including Games 6 and 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. "I think coming into the rink was just about getting better every day."
Part of Kuhlman's offseason focus was improving his scoring touch. After potting 12 goals in 58 games for Providence last season, the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder added four goals in 19 games (regular season and playoffs) with the Bruins.
"I think there are always things that you can learn," said Kuhlman. "I think for me, especially, just being able to score at this level is obviously tough. Getting to those dirty areas and working on finishing touches around the net, that's something that's big for me.
"And then just growing my confidence. I think through the playoffs, it really helped me coming to the rink every day and just looking to keep growing from there."
Video: Karson Kuhlman talks following Captains Practice
There were some new - but familiar - faces on the ice on Friday morning, with DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, David Pastrnak, and Charlie Coyle making their captains' practice debuts. In total, 20 players took part in the session at Warrior Ice Arena.
"It's massive just to get back in the swing of things and also see how the other guys are looking and doing out there," said DeBrusk. "Not sure how many guys are out there today, but I know the last couple days there have been lots of guys on the ice. That's obviously a sign that guys like to be here and these captains' practices, these workouts are kind of revving up for training camp. Obviously training camp is the most important thing. You have to make the team to play so that's what they're all about."
Adam McQuaid (UFA)
Alex Petrovic (UFA)
Video: Forward Jake DeBrusk talks after Captains Practice
Jacobs Shifting Control
According to a report from The Boston Globe on Friday afternoon, Bruins chairman Jeremy Jacobs shifted control of the franchise to his six children, including CEO Charlie Jacobs, earlier this year. The 79-year-old, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017, had owned the team since 1975.
"I don't have all the details," Chara said just moments after the story broke on Friday afternoon. "I think I'm speaking on behalf of all the players that we are very supportive of Mr. Jacobs' decision. He's been very supportive to this team, so whatever his decision is, I think we all understand."