Chara practices despite the pain

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Chara practices despite the pain

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- There is little wonder why Zdeno Chara is the captain of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

Chara flew to Slovakia earlier this week to attend the funeral services for good friend Pavol Demitra after the standout former Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks scorer was among the people killed in the KHL Lokomotiv plane crash in Russia.

But the 6-foot-9 Bruins defenseman also made certain he flew immediately back on Friday and arrived in Boston during the early morning hours of Saturday morning. Chara swallowed his still fresh emotions of hurt and loss, and got back to work on the ice Saturday during the first day of Bs training camp along with the rest of the players.

Chara was helping out youngsters like Dougie Hamilton and setting the perfect Black and Gold example despite an extremely heavy heart.

The exhaustion was clear on Charas face once practice was over, and the anguish was clear in his voice while on the verge of tears recalling the Slovakian services for Demitra. For a player that achieved the pinnacle of winning a Stanley Cup for his Bruins team back in June, its been an unwanted emotional roller coaster for the stoic defenseman.

Im tired . . . Im exhausted. But at least Im going to get a good nights sleep tonight, said Chara. I wanted to practice today obviously. I dont want to miss any days. If I did it wouldnt have been a big deal. It would have been for a good reason.

This summer has been a really crazy summer. It has been a summer of the high of the highs and the low of the lows. Obviously were going to miss all those guys and its very unfortunate. Its a big tragedy. It was a really weird summer. Mixed emotions but we have to move on . . . we have to move on.

Its apparent that the loss of his neighbor has understandably worn on Chara over the last week, and there might not be any real closure anytime soon. Demitra and his family were among the small circle of friends and relatives invites to Charas Cup party in Trencin over the summer, and the loss hit too close to home for the towering defenseman.

He was my neighbor and we shared a lot of great moments and stories together, Chara said. Its very sad you know. Obviously you lose a guy like that and its not easy.

It does, Chara said of training camp getting his mind off his loss. You have to stay busy, go about your business and do your job . . . Sorry guys. Its a tough loss.

While Chara will certainly benefit from a return to the routine of training camp, coach Claude Julien said hed allow his stalwart defenseman a wide berth to operate from with so much upheaval over the last few weeks.

I would have been willing to give him that time off if he wanted it, but he really wanted to go on the ice today for a bunch of reasons, said Julien. Hes got new equipment, he takes his job as a leader very seriously and he felt it would be good for him to get a good little workout in.

He looked tired and he told me that he was. Just the fact that he came out was nice to see. He showed a great example today of guy thats dedicated despite everything hes been through in the last week or so. He lost a pretty good friend that he was close to and I think emotionally it took a toll on him this past week. This is training camp and its probably a good time to give him a little space and allow him to work his way back into feeling good.

It may take a few days or weeks before Chara is truly feeling good, but getting back with his team on Saturday was a step in the right direction for the Slovakian strongman.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Heinen coming up big with Bruins' roster openings on the wing

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Heinen coming up big with Bruins' roster openings on the wing

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Danton Heinen has to know he’s got a fair shot to win an NHL job out of B’s training camp if he plays with confidence and assertiveness. 

So far, that little Black and Gold carrot has served him well in the preseason. The 21-year-old winger has scored a goal in each of his first two preseason appearances for the Bruins. He will be pushed back into the lineup again vs. the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.

The difference this time around is Claude Julien will be behind the bench once again for the Bruins after his time with the World Cup of Hockey and the B’s lineup will start to take on more of a real NHL feel with David Pastrnak and David Backes entering the mix.

Julien has liked what he’s seen thus far out of the University of Denver product, and clearly he’ll keep getting looks as long as the production and good work ethic are there.

“I think he’s been a real good player. He’s a smart player that seems to be heady and sees the play well. He seems to be in the right place and understands the game,” said Julien. “The hockey sense is something that you either have or you don’t, and I think he has great hockey sense. It certainly makes a great hockey player. I’ve liked him so far and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him.”

One other thing is certain: wing positions are open on the roster with Frankie Vatrano out for three months and Jimmy Vesey sharpening his skates at Madison Square Garden as a New York Ranger.

“We have to keep an open mind.  Frank Vatrano is hurt, and we kind of felt that he was going to have a really good start to this year. His confidence seemed to be at its highest, and the World Championships were good for him,” said Julien. “We have to look at what we have for a replacement. We went after Jimmy Vesey and we didn’t get him. So there are some spots that are open, and there’s no doubt about it.

“I’m going to be looking at compete level and I’ll be watching for the next three games to see who can fit in those spots. There are open spots, so it’s not cut-and-dried like a lot of years when it has been.”

Clearly, the high-end offensive skill is there after posting 36 goals and 93 points in his first two years at the University of Denver prior to going pro, and Heinen has a dollop of pro experience after getting into three AHL games with Providence at the end of last season. 

The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder showed off the playmaking ability setting up his teammates for chances in Friday night’s win over the Red Wings, and then finally scoring at crunch time in the third period when the coaching staff moved Zach Senyshyn to his opposite wing.

Both of his goals in this preseason have been tying scores in the third that factored prominently in the game’s outcome. That’s been impressive for a young prospect in his very first NHL camp.

But Heinen claims there is still more to come in his game, and that’s encouraging. He’s just starting to get comfortable as a player that uses his vision, hockey IQ and passing to generate loads of scoring chances when he’s on the ice.

“I feel pretty good. I’ve felt better as things have gone on, and I felt better [on Friday against Detroit] than I did in the first game,” said Heinen, who finished just behind a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin for the NCAA scoring title as a freshman a couple of years ago. “I just need to keep getting better. I think I have a lot more to give. I’m just trying to put my best foot forward, and we’ll see what happens.

“I think I’ve rushed a few plays where I feel like I could hang onto [the puck] and make a smarter play. So it’s little things like that. As I play a little more then I get more comfortable hanging onto it, so I hope to do a little more than that.”

It will also be interesting to see how Heinen responds to again being in the B’s lineup on Saturday for back-to-back, physical preseason games when the NCAA schedule can be a bit more spaced with weekend games. 

There are other candidates like Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn that have enjoyed solid training camps to date for the Bruins, but it feels like Heinen is starting to push ahead for one of those winger roster spots Julien has in mind as he watches these final four exhibition games leading into the regular season. 
 

Saturday, Oct. 1: Vesey's New York state of mind

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Saturday, Oct. 1: Vesey's New York state of mind

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while gearing up for Big Papi weekend.

 
*A “behind-the-scenes” look as Jimmy Vesey was sold on the New York Rangers, but there’s not too much detail about the pitches from the other teams. Feels pretty apparent at this point that Vesey wanted to live, and work, in New York City.

*Damien Cox says that the World Cup of Hockey better get it right the next time, or else…or else what, Damien? You’re going to block them on Twitter?

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri has Patrick Kane, Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban making their preseason debuts on Saturday. David Backes and David Pastrnak will play their first preseason games for the Bruins as well.  

*It’s a complicated, strange story with Vladimir Sobotka, the KHL and the contract he seemingly can’t get out of to again play for the St. Louis Blues.

*Oliver Ekman-Larsson is ready to get back to work with the Arizona Coyotes after his World Cup experience.

*San Jose Sharks prospect Timo Meier is out for the next month with mono, which is definitely worse timing than Zach Senyshyn getting hit with the mononucleosis bomb over the summer.

*A quick look at the Philadelphia Flyers in advance of their preseason meeting with the Black and Gold tonight, which won’t be televised.

*For something completely different: there will be some pretty funky stuff happening on The Walking Dead this season.