Chara may return to play against Flyers

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Chara may return to play against Flyers

ROCKLAND, ONT. Nobody is ruling Zdeno Chara out for a marquee Saturday afternoon against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Not the Bruins coaching staff, and more importantly not the 6-foot-9 defenseman himself after missing a pair of games with a left knee injury suffered last week in Columbus. Chara skated with his teammates on Friday morning at the Canadian International Hockey Academy for the first time since suffering the injury, and came away feeling good after the session. Chara jumped into full-contact battle drills with his teammates and didnt shy away from the hits, but did look slightly careful in taking turns on his left side.

Chara wouldnt say whether hed have been able to play if the game was on Friday, but indicated his decision would hinge on how he feels waking up Saturday morning after a good hour-long practice.

It was the first team practice since the injury and there were some battle drills, so it felt pretty good. The decision to play is something were going to have to make tomorrow morning, said Chara. Every game is big and every game is important. I want to play every game. So far its been good with no setbacks. I want to see how its going to react after a good practice.

The last two or three days have been good. If its keeping up this way with no setbacks then my return is going to be soon. Its all been very positive so far.

The Bruins have won both games without Chara to raise their record to 6-5-3 in games without their captain over the last five seasons, but theyve also surrendered 90 shots in two games and looked extremely mortal from a defensive standpoint.

Hes feeling better and he looked pretty good. What were going to do is give him a chance to fly to Philadelphia and see how he feels after a good workout, said Claude Julien following practice. If he feels good then we have a chance of seeing him. If he doesnt feel good then well be patient with him.

Were talking probably no more than a day or two for him to be ready. I thought he was pretty close today and hopefully I get the right answer on him by the end of the day. But if not then its too early in the season to start taking chances with players right now.

Chara has missed a grand total of 14 games over the last five seasons and prides himself on being the toughest player in the NHL, so watching the last couple of Bs games from the press box hasnt been easy.

I definitely want to be out there. Nobody wants to be on the sidelines and not playing. You want to be there with the guys and be there for them, he said. Its tough. Its totally different watching the game and its something I dont want to get used to.

If everything continues along its current path, it looks like the Bruins could be getting back their Goliath defenseman in Chara just as the Flyers have lost theirs in Pronger for the duration of the season.

Tuesday, March 28: 1,000 games for Sabres' Gionta

Tuesday, March 28: 1,000 games for Sabres' Gionta

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while forgetting that Nancy Kerrigan is on Dancing with the Stars.  

*Here’s the rundown on Brian Gionta celebrating his 1000th NHL game played with the Sabres on Monday night.

*Congrats to good guy Chad Johnson, who was appropriately given the “Good Guy Award” by the Calgary Flames media this week.

*Brock Boeser showed his abilities in a fantastic NHL debut after leaving the college ranks for the Canucks.

*I hope the fancy stats crowd is listening to this: The NHL playoff forecast is raining on the Corsi and fancy stats parade.

*Hope that Eddie Lack is okay after he had to be taken off the ice in a stretcher following a collision at the end of Carolina’s game.

*ESPN’s hockey crew breaks down some expansion mock drafts and have either Adam McQuaid, Jimmy Hayes or Malcolm Subban headed to the Vegas Golden Knights.

*The Benn brothers are gearing up for their first match-up against each other with the Canadiens and Stars set to meet.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jen Neale nails a Philly columnist for a hot take on USA Hockey and says the column illustrates just how much a change is needed there.

*The Winnipeg Jets have officially been eliminated from the playoffs, so now the Colorado Avalanche don’t have to feel so bad about themselves.

*For something completely different: One thing I’ve never wondered is what Tony Robbins thinks about politics.


 

'Healthy' Rask ready to go with a lot to prove

'Healthy' Rask ready to go with a lot to prove

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Tuukka Rask went through morning skate Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and proclaimed himself “healthy” to start against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden after sitting out Saturday with a lower body injury.

So, Rask will play his 60th game of the season tonight and the Bruins will hope that a dominating performance will douse some of the brush fire that’s cropped up around the Black and Gold’s goaltending situation. 

After Boston’s No. 1 goaltender coughed up five goals in a rough loss to Tampa and then sat out the must-win against the Islanders on Saturday night, questions about Rask’s big-game reliability are absolutely there after he also sat out last season’s pivotal finale against the Ottawa Senators.

Still, Rask said he hasn’t paid attention to the media scrutiny and is instead looking forward to locking up against fellow Finn Pekka Rinne of the Preds.

“I haven’t listened to the [media scrutiny], but I’m sure they’ve been very nice to me,” said Rask. “I don’t listen. I don’t read it. Doesn’t affect me. You know where you stand, and how good you play and when you don’t play good. That’s all you need. You don’t need to listen to the outside voices because it’s just going to distract you. People have opinions and they can say whatever they want.

“This is what we play for, right? It’s fun. It’s going to come down to the wire again and it’s going to be another battle tonight. I don’t even know how many games I’ve played. I feel good. I think I’ve said all throughout the year there’s going to be ups and downs, and you just try to stay even-keeled. It’s something that you learn not getting too high or too low, and just win as many games as you can.”

The bottom line with Rask is that there are major question marks about his standing as a No. 1 goaltender that he needs to address in these final seven games, media scrutiny or no media scrutiny. A No. 1 goalie worth $7 million per season can hold up with a 60-plus game workload and not fade down the stretch while in need of mental and physical breaks. 

The slender Rask has shown signs of slippage in his performance when the workload is heavy, and coach Bruce Cassidy admitted as much on Tuesday while not guaranteeing that his No. 1 will be able to play in six of the final seven games down the stretch.

“We’re trying to write our own story this year. I know how the last few years have ended, and we’d like a different ending,” said Cassidy. “I think this group should be afforded that right to write their own stories, and we’ll see how it plays out. Obviously last week did not play out well for us and we heard about it, and that’s part of the business.

“Saturday, hopefully we turned a corner, but we won’t know that until we get going forward here. I’m asking [Tuukka] to play well tonight, and I’m asking the players in front of him to play well tonight. The workload for Tuukka has to be monitored, and whether the whole world agrees with it or not, that’s the situation. I think the data backs up that he’s better with ‘X’ amount of rest and that’s just the way it is. It’s an inexact science and we’re trying to do a better job with that. The second half we’ve really tried to monitor it and last week was a bit of an exception. At crunch time things change a little bit, and that’s what we’re trying to balance.”

In an ideal world, a hockey team scratching and clawing for the Stanley Cup playoffs wouldn’t have to so closely monitor whether a goaltender is about to break down because he’s pushing 60 games in a season, especially when he’d enjoyed a five-day bye just a month earlier.

There are also questions about Rask’s reliability after sitting out last weekend, whether it was by his choice, the team’s choice or a mutually agreed upon decision after his lower body discomfort cropped up. A No. 1 goalie is no longer worthy of that lofty mantle when a team can’t rely on big-game performances from him, or even if he'll be available, once the pressure is on in the final weeks of the season.

So, there are plenty of questions to answer for Rask down the stretch here and they may go a long way toward determining his long-range future with an organization that invested heavily in him a few years ago. Those answers begin on Tuesday night against the Predators and it certainly feels like it will be game-to-game with him for final seven contests of the regular season.