BOSTON - John-Michael Liles knows how great a loss Zdeno Chara is for the Boston Bruins. Any time the defenseman is out of the lineup, it is a blow for a team that has relied so heavily on their captain for so many years.
Such will be the case Thursday night in Ottawa.
Chara will not play against the Senators after leaving the second period of Tuesday night's loss to St. Louis with what was announced as a lower-body injury.
Coach Claude Julien said, "He's day-to-day. I think he's pretty doubtful for these next two games. After that, we'll see."
But, despite not having the services of their best defenseman, Liles is confident in the Bruins' ability to continue playing the tight defensive structure that has given them so much success this season.
"In the last little while, everyone together as a group has really come together and embraced our identity and the style of play we wan to emphasize," Liles said Wednesday morning following practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
"I think that's one of the reasons we've had success. Losing Zee is a big loss, but if we continue to play the style that we've really focused on the last little while, we can continue to have success."
Julien, whose team is sixth in the league in goals allowed (2.32 per game), issued a similar assessment of what he expects from his team during Chara's absence.
"We have to do it by committee," said Julien. "We're going to have to have everybody step up. We just lost our best defender. Teams hate playing against him and that's the kind of impact he's got. There's no individual that's going to step up and do his job. We're going to have to do it as a group."
As tough as it is to lose Chara, the Bruins could have reinforcements on the way.
David Pastrnak, the team's leading goal scorer, has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury, but was back alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand during Wednesday's practice.
"He is traveling with the team," said Julien. "He was cleared for full practice today. Unless there's a setback tomorrow, I would anticipate him to hopefully play. There could be a setback; this is his first full day of practice here. We'll see."
Kevan Miller was also cleared to participate in the session and took regular reps with the other defensemen during drills.
"Kevan just got cleared, so we're going to have some decisions to make before tomorrow's game," said Julien.
Miller acknowledged it was a good time to be cleared for a return, with Chara out of the lineup.
"Hand feels great," said Miller, who was alongside Joe Morrow for a good chunk of Wednesday's practice. "Put in a good amount of work to get back. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup whenever that is. I'm excited to play."
Carlo Will Have to Adapt
Julien was confident in Brandon Carlo's ability to perform, despite not having Chara, his partner in every game this season, by his side. Carlo was on the ice for two of St. Louis' goals in the second period of last night's loss, but Julien believed that was more to do with being fatigued from elongated shifts rather than not having Chara on the ice.
"I think you have to give Brandon some credit there, he's a pretty good player anyways," said Julien. "He can still play in this league without Zdeno. He did it last night and I thought in the second period he got caught in a couple of shifts there, [got] really tired and that hurt him.
"He was much better in the third. I don't think there's going to be that much of an issue. When you're missing your No. 1 defenseman, it affects you. But he's still a good enough player to overcome that."
Video: Carlo speaks after a 4-2 loss to St. Louis
Carlo played much of training camp alongside John-Michael Liles while Chara was away at the World Cup of Hockey with Team Europe. The two were paired together at practice on Wednesday and could play together Thursday night in Ottawa.
That familiarity will certainly help should they be paired with each other.
"We've got that experience," said Liles. "He's young but he's a good player. He's played - I don't know how many games we've played so far - but he's played a number of games and he's played well.
"He's done a great job with Zee, but he's also played with other guys at different times, too. He and I have some comfort from training camp together and hopefully we can continue how we played in training camp."
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey - David Krejci - David Backes
Ryan Spooner - Riley Nash - Austin Czarnik
Tim Schaller - Dominic Moore - Sean Kuraly /Jimmy Hayes
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles - Brandon Carlo
Joe Morrow - Kevan Miller