"Maintenance day, day off for him," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "He's a big man, he needs some time off - in our minds, not in his mind, but in our minds - so every once in a while, we force him to stay off."
The Bruins are heading into a back-to-back against the Islanders on the road Monday night, before hosting the Florida Panthers back at TD Garden on Tuesday. It will finish up a stretch up three games in four days.
'Big Zee' has averaged 25:04 in ice time per game this season. He often slides over the boards for close to 29 shifts a game. That workload increases depending on the matchup, other defensemen in the Bruins' lineup, and situations on the ice.
He's only missed one game this season with an undisclosed injury.
The Captain likes being on the ice with his teammates.
"Ah, he's getting used to it now," smiled Julien, when asked if Chara fights the decision for him to rest his skating legs. "He hasn't won a fight yet so when I tell him to stay off, he's getting the message now."
Chara logged 21:43 in ice time in the Bruins' 6-1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday. It was his lowest ice-time since November 29, and only because Boston had a comfortable lead the entire game, and could roll all four lines, all blueliners, and didn't spend much time on the penalty kill. It was a luxury. It's what happens when the Bruins play their "team game."
Kelly Getting Closer
Chara was the only Bruin not on the ice for the Sunday practice that lasted about a half hour. Chris Kelly continues to skate with the team, inching closer to his return to the lineup after missing 21 games recovering from his broken right fibula (calf bone).
His skating has looked strong; now it's still a matter of being in game-shape. Sunday was his second practice with contact.
"He's been skating for a while, on his own mostly, but I think obviously the adrenaline, the excitement of coming back when you're out for six weeks and you're watching your team play and you're hanging around your teammates, but you can't be part of it - it can be tough," said Julien, of Kelly's return to the group on the ice.
"I think he's excited now to get back and he's working hard, but the other day [against Philadelphia], we didn't feel he was ready."
"But we'll see how he is today [Sunday] and tomorrow, and he may not [play] again, or he may, but I think he's getting pretty close so, again, it's a joint decision with him, the trainers and the coaching staff."
After seven weeks out of the lineup, Kelly is just glad to be finally at the stage where he's getting closer.
"We're just being careful…and I think when we feel he's ready, there won't be any hesitation at putting him in."
Ryan Spooner was back on the ice for practice Sunday, after missing Saturday's game against the Flyers due to illness.
"He's better today," said Julien. "Just a flu bug or whatever, that kind of crept in quickly there yesterday so we had to make a quick decision."
Jordan Caron slotted into the lineup on the fourth line, with Daniel Paille moving up to play alongside Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg. Caron was high-sticked in the face and chipped a couple of teeth, but the double-minor led to two power-play goals for Boston that got them to six goals and put the game away.
Staying the Course
The Bruins have picked up seven of eight points in their past four games. Their strong play has come from commitment, and a budding all-around game that has kept getting better from Dallas, to Chicago, to LA, to Philadelphia.
"It seems like since the Dallas game, we've been able to find that consistency in our game and throughout our lineup, and that's what I talk about as the most important thing for us, is to keep that going," said Milan Lucic.
Soup's Trip Down Memory Lane
When the Bruins arrived at the Nassau Coliseum on Sunday, a youth hockey tournament was taking place right up until their 12:30 p.m. practice. It just so happened that Gregory Campbell's former youth team, the Long Island Gulls, was on the ice.
Campbell had played there while his father, Colin Campbell, was a coach with the New York Rangers. Since the team had a good amount of time to kill before practice, Campbell sat and watched some of the game, along with other Bruins popping in and out of the arena's tunnel by the visiting team locker room.
White Jerseys: Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla
Gold: Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Gray: Carl Soderberg - Chris Kelly/Ryan Spooner - Loui Eriksson
Merlot: Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton, Jordan Caron
D: Johnny Boychuk, Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Zach Trotman
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Chad Johnson