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Bruins' Chara out 4-6 weeks with knee injury

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli announced Friday that defenseman Zdeno Chara will miss 4-6 weeks with a tear in the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Chiarelli said there are no plans for Chara to have surgery and the captain's return "might be a little bit earlier than four weeks, but a conservative time frame would be 4-6 weeks."

News like that can be discouraging to even the deepest, most talented teams. Coach Claude Julien, however, said he doesn't expect his team to be down in the dumps.

"There's no discouragement in that room," Julien said. "There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey. … You have those things happen. And you know you've got to hope that your team is strong enough as a whole to overcome these things. Did we lose a good player? We did. Is he a big part of our team? Yes he is. But … I'd like to think we're better than that, than feel sorry for ourselves or be discouraged. That's not the case in our dressing room right now."

Zdeno Chara
Zdeno Chara
Defense - BOS
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 3
SOG: 28 | +/-: -2
According to Chiarelli, Chara was hurt when he checked New York Islanders forward John Tavares with 8:44 left in the first period of the Bruins' 3-2 loss Thursday at TD Garden. Chara finished the shift, but when he left the ice with 8:12 remaining he never returned.

Chara's absence will affect the entire roster. He leads the Bruins with an average ice time of 21:41 per game, including 3:25 of shorthanded ice time per game, most on the Bruins. He also is an important part of the power play as a net-front presence on one of the units.

Defensemen Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug figure to see a major increase in their responsibilities. Defenseman Matt Bartkowski might have an expanded role, and at least one of Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow, recalled from Providence of the American Hockey League on Friday, could get opportunities to play.

Chiarelli said the Bruins called up two defensemen because some of the other defenders were dealing with minor injury issues. The Bruins also are missing defenseman Kevan Miller, who is out indefinitely with a separated shoulder.

There's certainly going to be a different look to the Bruins' defense without Chara, but Chiarelli doesn't think the identity has to change.

"Those guys [Chara and Miller] are big, strong shutdown guys," Chiarelli said. "The two guys that we're bringing up, they're younger, less experienced players that don't have the resume obviously that the guys that are hurt have. So you make do with what you have at this point. They have their assets, they have their good parts of their game, and as I said they're both strong skaters and they're strong. So while they're not pure shutdown guys like a Miller or a [Chara] -- he's more than just a shutdown guy -- but they have their things that they can bring to the table they have to excel at. So it's not a change in identity. These guys are strong and they can defend. I think that's what the consistent thing is."

In nine games this season Chara has two goals, one assist and a minus-2 rating. He's a vocal leader who has been captain since he signed with the Bruins in 2006. He won the Norris Trophy in 2009, and helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and return to the Final in 2013.


Replacing Bruins defenseman Chara

By Matt Cubeta - Fantasy Insider takes a look at some injury replacement options for Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who is expected to miss 4-6 weeks because of a knee injury. READ MORE ›

In 611 games with Boston he has 106 goals, 346 points and a plus-138 rating. He's led the Bruins in average ice time per game in all nine of his seasons.

Chara has missed 20 games since joining the Bruins and they are 8-7-5 in his absence, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. However, only a few of those missed games have been because of injury; Julien has opted to rest Chara at times late in seasons to keep him fresh for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The loss to the Islanders dropped the Bruins to 4-5-0. Without Chara they fell behind 3-1 after two periods but battled back in the third, outshooting the Islanders 15-11 and getting to within 3-2.

"We'll play as a team," Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said of the key to success without Chara. "Now it becomes even more important. And I hope that this is the last wake-up call for us to really fight with each other and … play as a unit out there. Because when we get away from that it doesn't go our way at all. When we're missing him everybody has to recognize that it becomes more important and maybe something clicks in our heads and we start working as a unit and limiting those mistakes."

Julien said the third period of that loss Thursday was a blueprint for what the Bruins have to do for 60 minutes without Chara.

"I think we played three or four real good games," Julien said. "And [Thursday] our third period looked more like the games we played before. So we had two bad periods. And two bad periods can cost you a game. That's what happened [Thursday]. We didn't compete hard enough. We didn't make good decisions. We forced plays. When we started to play in the third period it was one-sided; it was as simple as that. We spent most of the period in their own end. We had some great chances, great zone time, which they had in the first two periods because we weren't ready to play or pay the price."

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