Chara will be leaned on by Bruins in Game 6 of Cup Final
Has 'no limitations' despite facial injuries sustained against Bluesby Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer
ST. LOUIS -- The Boston Bruins know they can count on Zdeno Chara to be there when they need him most.
If there were any questions about that, the Bruins captain answered them when he played in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday after sustaining facial injuries when he was hit with the puck in Game 4 three days earlier.
The defenseman will do it again with the Bruins' Stanley Cup hopes hanging in the balance, trailing the best-of-7 series heading into Game 6 at St. Louis on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
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"He's our leader," Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said Saturday. "He's the toughest guy out there. He doesn't take any games off unless it's impossible to play."
Wearing a guard attached to his helmet to protect his jaw, Chara took 25 shifts in Game 5 and had two shots, four hits and three blocks in 16:42 of ice time in a 2-1 loss.
Speaking to the media for the first time since he was injured, Chara insisted Saturday he has no limitations and is able to play despite his injuries.
"I feel fine playing," Chara said. "Obviously, it was a quick turnaround after [Game 4] here, but I felt fine."
Video: Listen to the Bruins prior to Game 6 in St. Louis
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Friday that energy might be an issue because Chara hasn't been able to eat much since he was injured, but Chara downplayed that concern.
"I'm trying to always eat as much as I can and keep my nutrition up and fluids up," he said.
Bruins forward Noel Acciari has an idea of what Chara is going through. Acciari broke his jaw when he struck by a puck against the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 26. He opted not to have his jaw wired shut, had a plate surgically implanted, and scored against the Tampa Bay Lightning two days later.
"You don't want to play afraid," Acciari said. "Once you play afraid, you're not playing your game. I'm not too worried about the big man over there (Chara) playing his game, because he is always bringing it."
Although Chara may not have been the same force physically and played about five fewer minutes than his postseason average (21:41), his presence gave the Bruins an emotional lift early in Game 5. They outshot the Blues 17-8 in the first period but weren't able to take advantage of it.
Needing a victory Sunday to force a Game 7 at Boston on Wednesday, the Bruins will lean on Chara again.
"He's the captain, he's a leader and that's why he's still playing right now," Bruins center Charlie Coyle said. "You can tell how much it means to him and that just says everything."
Video: Bruins need to focus on bouncing back for Game 6
Since signing with the Bruins on July 1, 2006, Chara has played in 135 of their 139 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including 21 of 22 this season. He missed Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes on May 16 because of an undisclosed injury, but that was more for precautionary reasons with Boston leading 3-0 in the series.
Chara was back for Game 1 of the Cup Final on May 27 and appeared to have no issues physically before Blues forward Brayden Schenn's shot deflected up off his stick and into his face in the second period of Game 4. Few expected Chara to be able to play in Game 5, but after testing how he felt on the ice during the morning skate on Thursday and receiving medical clearance, he was in the Bruins' starting lineup.
"We love to see him out there," Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo said. "He's a big, huge help in all aspects of the game leadership-wise and then playing as well."
Being a leader doesn't always involve making pregame speeches, but some might expect Chara or someone else to say something before they take the ice Sunday. Chara had some trouble enunciating talking about his injury Saturday but had no problem getting his message across.
"Obviously, it's a big game, but I think it's going to be a shared responsibility between the coaching staff and all of us to do a share of talking and make sure that we are where we need to be, (have) the right mindset and preparation before the game," Chara said. "But I don't think it's just a specific speech or just a player that has to do all the talking."
To the rest of the Bruins, Chara simply being in the lineup will be enough.
"He doesn't need to say anything," Coyle said. "I don't think he can say anything, but he doesn't need to. It says it all him just being here, the warrior he is, and just doing his part and coming ready to play."