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Zdeno Chara Leaves Loss to Isles in the First Period, and Does Not Return

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - Defenseman Zdeno Chara left the first period of Thursday night's game against the New York Islanders at TD Garden, and did not return.

"No report yet," Head Coach Claude Julien told reporters postgame around 9:40 p.m., following the Bruins' 3-2 loss the Isles.

"We won’t know anything until he sees the proper people in the medical staff. So, nothing right now."

Chara played five shifts in the first period. His final shift ended with 8:12 left in the period. Earlier in the minute-long shift, the defenseman landed a heavy hit on John Tavares.

"When it's your Captain [leaving], it's definitely hard to take," said alternate captain Patrice Bergeron. "That being said, we've dealt through adversity in the past and it shouldn't be an excuse."

"But he's definitely a big part of our team, our defense, and we definitely weren't sharp in the first 40 minutes."

The Bruins were already down 1-0 when Chara left the game.

They had trouble getting out of their zone, Chara's stick got caught up with Isles forward Josh Bailey, and the puck eventually caromed off Dougie Hamilton and onto Frans Nielsen's stick for the tap-in.

Losing a player isn't a simple adjustment, especially when an injury leaves a five-man unit on defense. The Bruins faced a similar situation on Saturday when Kevan Miller suffered a dislocated shoulder in Buffalo.

But replacing 'Big Zee' is insurmountable, in terms of minutes, matchups, all situations on the ice, and from a leadership standpoint.

"He's our best player and one of the leaders on our team so he changes the game for us," said Hamilton. "So nobody knew really what was going on, so we knew we had to step up when we found out he was out for the game."

"He's an irreplaceable player," said alternate captain Chris Kelly. "He plays every situation for us, and he's our leader, so we're going to need to fill that void collectively as a group - not just one guy's going to be able to do that."

"Obviously him not being out there, everyone notices - us, and them."

Milan Lucic tied the game up at 1-1 for the Bruins late in they first period, going full steam ahead towards the net and deflecting in a chip pass from Seth Griffith.

But the Black and Gold allowed two second period goals from the Isles' Kyle Okposo and Cal Clutterbuck to fall down 3-1 entering the third. Both came after defensive breakdowns and an inability to successfully break the puck out of the zone.

"They lose Zee, that’s huge, for us, because he’s such a good player," said Johnny Boychuk. "I just hope he’s okay because he’s their leader, their top defenseman. His presence on the ice is felt. When they didn’t have him, we just kept putting pucks in and tried to grind them down."

The Bruins found another gear in the third period, outshooting the Islanders 15-11. Chris Kelly pulled them within one midway through the frame, firing in a Carl Soderberg rebound, but it was too little, too late.

With a second period letdown, had the Bruins let the loss of Chara affect them mentally?

"I don't think so," said Kelly. "I just don't think we were - like I said, they were ready right from the opening faceoffs, and we weren't."

Julien agreed.

"No, no. We weren’t playing that well before he got hurt, anyways," said the bench boss.

The Bruins had won two straight before falling to the Isles. Looking like they were headed in the right direction, the loss of Chara - for however long, depending on the extent of the injury - will affect that, if the Bruins let it.

"Well, when you lose your captain and one of your better defensemen, there’s no doubt it’s going to have an effect on your team," said Julien. "But again, we showed in the third that we’re able to handle it, so that’s my perspective on it."

"You’re gonna lose guys during the season, those things happen. How you react to it and how you respond is what’s important."

Chara has only missed one game due to injury since 2012. It came on December 28, 2013 in Ottawa (coincidentally, the same day the Bruins learned Dennis Seidenberg was out for the season with his ACL/MCL injury). The only other four games he missed last season were due to the Olympics and a coach's decision at the end of the regular season to rest the captain.

Here's what the Bruins will miss, outlined by Kelly: "Poised in all aspects of the game - on the bench, on the ice. He's the captain for a reason, he's played a thousand games for a reason."

"You see your captain go down and one of your best players, and probably your most important player, it's definitely not a great sight to see," said Milan Lucic. "You need to do whatever you can to overcome that and fill in - I know he's a tough guy to replace, he's irreplaceable - but everyone can do a little extra to fill in for what he does."

"But you saw in the third, when we decide to play, we can still play."

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