By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
There’s a week to go until Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, but Zdeno Chara is already back to work with the Bruins. The captain returned to practice on Monday along with center David Krejci and defenseman Steven Kampfer, according to multiple reports.
Per Mike Loftus of the Patriot Ledger, Chara practiced on his usual defensive pairing with Charlie McAvoy. Brandon Carlo-Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk-Connor Clifton rounded out the main defense.
Chara missed the Bruins’ Game 4 series clincher against the Carolina Hurricanes with an undisclosed injury, but appears well on track to resume his regular roles and ice time in the Stanley Cup Final. Game 1 is not until next Monday, May 27, as the Western Conference Final between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues remains unresolved. St. Louis leads the series 3-2 after winning Game 5 on Sunday.
The Bruins’ dominating defensive performance against the Hurricanes in Game 4 gave an encouraging glimpse of what the Bruins defense may look like once the 42-year-old Chara finally decides to retire. But it’s important not to get too far ahead of ourselves and assume they would look as strong without Chara against San Jose or St. Louis. More speed and skill on defense helped the Bruins against Carolina, but they’ll need Chara’s skill set in the next round.
Both the Sharks and Blues boast size and skill up front and on the back end. Chara’s penalty-killing will be a crucial asset against either power play. And while Carlo has stepped up as the team’s main shutdown defender in this playoff run, Chara will still be called upon in key situations to keep either teams’ dangerous forward groups away from Tuukka Rask.
So Chara’s return to the ice is certainly a welcome one. Barring a major setback, it’s likely that No. 33 will be back in the lineup without limitations to start the Stanley Cup Final. We’ll see what he and/or Bruce Cassidy have to say later on Monday after practice.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.