BOSTON - Zdeno Chara was back on the ice with his teammates on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena for his first full practice since sitting out Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final with an undisclosed injury.
"It was nice to be out there again, skated [on Sunday] then skated with the team," said Chara. "It was a good practice, good pace. I'm taking it one day at a time. [Tuesday's] an off day, but get back at it on Wednesday."
Chara was a late scratch ahead of the series-clinching game in Carolina, snapping his stretch of 98 consecutive postseason games played, dating back to Game 2 of the first round against Montreal in 2011.
"It was. I'm not gonna lie," Chara said when asked if it was difficult to sit out. "Watching games is not fun. You want to play them and you want to be involved. For sure it was something that [I] was feeling that kind of anxiousness to play. But guys did a great job, won the game, so that's great."
Video: Chara talks health as the Finals approach
Despite not playing in the 4-0 victory over the Hurricanes, the B's captain joined his teammates on the ice - in full uniform - following the game, saying he felt it was an important sign of admiration for both teams.
"I wanted to pay respect to the Carolina Hurricanes for what they've done, how much they battled throughout the season, throughout the playoffs," said Chara. "They deserve it, they're a great team, they play really hard. The whole organization, coaching staff, management, I think they're great…big steps forward.
"They have great passionate fans, so I wanted to pay respect to the players I played against and battled against. And obviously wanted to be part of it with the guys, just be there with them."
Chara also joined in the handshake line and had a meaningful exchange with Carolina head coach Rod Brind'Amour. The Hurricanes bench boss asked Chara if he was going to be all right, before saying, "good luck to you, much respect for you. You can't keep doing this…good for you."
"I played against Rod a lot," said Chara. "I came in the league when he was in Philadelphia and obviously had a number of years, a number of battles, against him. He's a true warrior, great leader and captain. And obviously for Carolina Hurricanes, he was very valuable in 2006 [when they won the Stanley Cup].
"I really appreciated what he said. We have mutual respect and he's doing an amazing job as a coach, very similar to what he was as a player. He's leading and I wish him all the best."
Video: BOS@CAR, Gm4: Bruins, Hurricanes exchange handshakes
Passing the Time
With a week remaining until the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins are being strategic with their practice schedule. After hitting the ice for two straight days, coach Bruce Cassidy is giving the group another day off on Tuesday, before they return to the ice on Wednesday morning.
Cassidy said that right now - particularly with not having an opponent to prepare for - the sessions are focused more on monitoring the players' fitness during the long layoff.
"We monitor their heart rates, so their workloads. We're looking probably a little closer at that than maybe we would have in the middle of the year, draw some comparables to make sure we don't get too high," said Cassidy. "Just some pace, guys seem to have good life out there. They're workers, so they want to work, they just don't want to overdo it and leave it out there.
"Guys stayed out [on Sunday] a long time probably. They had two days off, they want to get back at it. Workload and pace is what I'm looking at."
Video: Cassidy gives update on Chara
Taking It In Stride
As he has between the pipes throughout the postseason, Tuukka Rask remained stoic during his media availability on Monday afternoon. When asked how he's handling the long layoff ahead of the Stanley Cup Final, the netminder said he's taking it in stride.
"It's only as big of a challenge as you make it for yourself," said Rask. "Practice when we practice and then take time off when there's day off. I think that's it. I don't think about hockey every day, all day. I don't think that's gonna do any good. Just stay sharp on the ice, do the work you need to do, and play when the puck drops."
Patrice Bergeron will join Chara, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Rask as the five members of the Bruins that have played in three Stanley Cup Finals. Now 33, the veteran center admits to valuing these opportunities a bit more than he did earlier in his career.
"I think it makes you appreciate and makes you understand how hard it is," said Bergeron, who was 25 when the Bruins won the Cup in 2011 and 27 when they returned to the Final in 2013. "I'm very thankful to be in this opportunity and to compete for a Cup. I think in a way it's different that way, where I've matured and I've come to realize that it's not easy to get to this point and make the most of it."
Video: Bergeron discusses opportunity to be in Finals
Monday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - David Backes
Marcus Johansson - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
John Moore - Steven Kampfer
Video: Kuraly 1-on-1 to talk team bond, Stanley Cup prep