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Chara needed plates, wires in jaw to complete Cup Final with Bruins

Defenseman, injured in Game 4 of series loss to Blues, expects to be ready for next season

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Zdeno Chara said Friday he needed two plates, along with wires and screws, to repair multiple fractures in his jaw and allow him to complete the Stanley Cup Final for the Boston Bruins.

The defenseman, who was injured 3:07 into the second period of Game 4 and returned for Games 5, 6 and 7 against the St. Louis Blues with a clear jaw protector, was hit by a puck off the stick of Blues forward Brayden Schenn.

Boston lost Games 4, 5 and 7 to lose the best-of-7 series, which gave St. Louis its first Stanley Cup championship.

"It's one of those things that I think I'm able to tolerate pain and I was able to just focus on the game and what was ahead of us," the 42-year-old said. "I think just you have to accept that the game and sports brings some pain and sacrifices that you have to, or should be willing to, accept."

Video: STL@BOS, Gm7: Rask gets help from Chara at goal line

Chara said he expects his recovery to take 5-6 weeks. The wires will be removed, but he said he does not anticipate having any more procedures on his jaw. He said he will be ready for training camp, returning to the Bruins for the 2019-20 season after signing a one-year contract worth $2 million (with $1.75 million in performance-based incentives) on March 23.

Chara said he might have returned to play the third period of Game 4 but instead listened to the orders of doctors. He sat on the bench to support his teammates in a 4-2 loss, then played 16:42 in Game 5, a 2-1 loss, and scored while playing 22:15 in a 5-1, Game 6 win. He played 16:11 in the 4-1, Game 7 loss.

Chara said he is waiting on results of scans and MRIs related to a lower-body injury that forced him to leave Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes. He would not specify what that injury was, but said it was reaggravated with about three minutes left in Game 3 of what became a sweep. Had the situation been different and the series been tighter, Chara said he might have tried to play in Game 4, but because it was something that was "kind of bothering me for a long period of time and just keep re-aggravating" it, the decision was made to not make the situation worse.

"It's been obviously kind of a tougher stretch in the playoffs as far as getting some bumps and bruises, but that's just a part of it," Chara said before thanking the doctors and nurses at Massachusetts General Hospital by name for what they did fixing his jaw and allowing him to play in Game 5 of the Cup Final.

"My original plan was to go back in and play (in Game 4). I wanted to play really badly. It was a very close game and we were still obviously in a great position, but sometimes you have to respect the knowledge that the medical decision is the right one and, in that case, obviously it was. It could be a lot worse maybe if something else happened to the same area.

"But I just wanted to be with the guys. I wanted to be there to support them."

Chara said that had the Bruins lost a defenseman or two in the third period, he would have returned to the game, no matter what the medical advice was.

"At that point, I would not ask," he said. "I would be willing to obviously play."

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In the following days, Chara was limited to a liquid diet. He could not chew much, which made it even more challenging to get ready to play.

"We managed and we did what we could to make everything work and be ready," he said. "After that, you're finding ways to get small pieces of food in you, maintaining the nutrition part of it as best you can."

Chara said he learned more about himself this postseason, and what he and his body are capable of sustaining, even after 1,485 regular-season and 182 postseason NHL games.

"I definitely was able to push my body to different limits, which I kind of heard they exist but was never in that position that I had to push it," he said. "Definitely this postseason and playoffs, it was one of those that kept pushing and pushing it and find another level of limits that you can go through and beyond."

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