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Zdeno Chara Working His Way Back from Knee Injury

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - Captain Zdeno Chara has missed four games to injury, and will miss his fifth on Tuesday night, as the Bruins host the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.

He suffered a tear in the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) of his left knee 12 days ago on October 23 when landing a hit on the New York Islanders' John Tavares.

Players are not usually made available to reporters during injury recovery, but Chara took the time to speak with reporters on Tuesday morning in the Bruins' locker room for the first time since his injury.

"I feel alright," Chara said, sporting a grizzled beard that he'd grown since the last time he spoke with media. He didn't admit to feeling any pain or soreness.

Wearing a brace on his left knee, he has to keep the leg immobile for a period of time. He's been able to do upper body workouts in the meantime.

"There is not a timeline right now. I wish I could tell you guys exactly when I'm going to return," said Chara. "But as this point, it's really such a slow process, that who knows when the day is going to be."

The conservative time frame General Manager Peter Chiarelli originally gave on October 24 was four to six weeks. The good news was that the tear was exclusive to the PCL, and no other ligaments were affected.

More good news from the outset was that it didn't appear Chara needed surgery, though anything can still happen.

"Well, we'll see. It's always nice to be able to avoid surgery, so we'll see how it goes and obviously it was good news," he said.

Chara hasn't had much sustained time out of the lineup due to injury since arriving in Boston before the 2006-07 season. In fact, he had missed just 11 games due to injury with the Bruins before suffering the PCL tear.

He had two extended times out of the lineup with Ottawa, but this is new territory for him in Black and Gold.

"It's just like you treat any other injury, if it's short term or long term, you know, you're just trying to get better and get back as soon as possible," Chara said.

"Yeah, you want to be playing, that's for sure. But at the same time, you've got to do your part rehabbing and trying to get back as soon as possible."

It takes something significant, like this knee injury, for Chara not to play. He's played through a laundry list of injuries during the playoffs.

He didn't know something was wrong right away, when he landed the hit on Tavares. It took another shift for something to not feel normal.

"The shift after, I felt some kind of discomfort, but no pain, just kind of went into the locker room to check on things, but obviously found out, there was more to it."

Now, he's working to recover as quickly as he can and get back on the ice with his teammates who have had to battle through injuries to not only him, but also to Kevan Miller (dislocated shoulder), Torey Krug (broken finger) and David Krejci (undisclosed).

"It's hard to watch on the sidelines, but my focus is obviously on getting better and getting back as soon as I can," Chara reiterated. "So as much as I would like to play, I think that my focus right now is on getting better off the ice."

He's doing that in other ways besides just hitting the gym for upper body workouts.

The Captain was seen stickhandling and passing the puck back and forth with Krejci in the hallway near the locker room prior to the Bruins' morning skate on Tuesday.

"Just feeling the puck a little bit," said Chara.

"He’s having fun, the best way he can," Head Coach Claude Julien said on Tuesday, prior to Chara addressing reporters. "His situation hasn’t changed. It is four to six weeks, so that hasn’t changed."

Julien was also asked about how Chara is handling his recovery.

"I’m sure if you ask him that question at some point, he’ll probably tell you that - I think it drives any player crazy that you’re not able to go out there and help your team, just like it drives players crazy to sit out and watch games when they’re healthy," said Julien.

"Everybody that’s here wants to play. I know we consider, you know, him more than others. I would like to think that everybody wants to play badly. It’s tough when you’re not used to it."

"As of right now, in my opinion, he’s handling it as well as he can under the circumstances. Like I said, he’s shooting pucks against the wall trying to make the best of the situation and have a little bit of fun."

With Chara then speaking about his injury, he answered any questions regarding that - that the Bruins' leader would do anything he could to get back on the ice, that it's tough to not play, and that he has to continue to be patient with his rehab.

He's also taking the time up in the press box in stride, as all players do.

"You always can learn - playing, and watching," Chara said. "I think that it's always a much easier game from the top, but I don't think that you're anytime at the point where you should be thinking, 'I know everything.'"

"The game is always changing, the situations are always kind of developing differently and by watching, you're probably realizing how you can play that game on the ice, when you're up top, so it's like I said, it's a much easier game from up top."

From that viewpoint, Chara watched his team earn a 4-2 win over Ottawa on Saturday at the Garden. He also watched from afar as they fought to an overtime win in Buffalo.

With two straight wins, he's pleased to see the team heading in the right direction.

"Well, I think we can always do better," said Chara. "But I think that they've done a better job - especially the last two games - to be more consistent, and play better for 60 minutes."

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