By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins are not sure if Zdeno Chara, who took a puck to the face in the second period and returned as a third-period spectator in the B's Game 4 loss to the Blues on Monday, will be ready to go in time for Thursday's Game 5 in Boston.
It's admittedly hard to feel optimistic about Chara's status for Game 5 when he sat and watched all of Boston's struggle of a third period (doubly so when you realize what a competitor Chara is and has been throughout his career), and how he looked legitimately incapable of speaking to his teammates. You know he's not sitting unless he absolutely has to. And consider the fact that the Bruins are already without Matt Grzelcyk (concussion, out indefinitely) and Kevan Miller (lower-body, unofficially done for the year) and life could be set to get real tricky for Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.
But there's options, at the very least.
“[Steven] Kampfer, or we have [Urho] Vaakanainen, [Jeremy] Lauzon and [Jakub] Zboril," Cassidy said when asked about the B's options in the event of a Chara absence. "That’d be the route we’d go."
First of all, the fact that Cassidy did not bring up Grzelcyk or Miller among that group of potential replacements, while expected, confirms that neither is close to a return for the Bruins. Secondly, it essentially reinforces the fact that there's really no viable replacement for a player like Chara, who has an absurd 179 games of postseason experience to his name.
But in the immediate aftermath of the loss and a potential Chara absence, who has the leg up on the competition?
“We’d have to look at Kampfer, obviously, first," Cassidy offered. "He’s been the one playing for us in the playoffs, but [Chara] is another left stick, so we may measure that as well.”
Vaakanainen, for what it's worth, has been practicing with the Black and Gold in recent days, but he hasn't appeared in an NHL game since late December, and has played just nine games (all in the AHL) over the last three months. Lauzon skated in 16 NHL contests for the Bruins this past season, and Zboril has played just two NHL games in his pro career.
Kampfer has the most experience of the group, of course, having skated in 201 career NHL games, as well as two games this postseason (one goal, two shots on goal, and four hits in 26:02 of total ice-time). But as Cassidy mentioned, he's a right shot, which would give the Bruins four right-shot defenders in the same lineup, making Torey Krug and John Moore his only lefties.
Connor Clifton has played on the left at times this year, but it's not exactly his preferred spot in the lineup, nor is it something the Bruins should be in love with entering what feels like an obvious must-win Game 5 in Boston.
In other words, who knows?