Chara showing off his offensive abilities

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Chara showing off his offensive abilities

BOSTON Dont look now, but Zdeno Chara is playing the role of best defensemen in the NHL again.

It can sometimes be overlooked because the 6-foot-9 blueliner has been a larger-than-life character since arriving in Boston five years ago. But the Norris Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion has turned up his play during the month of November as the Bruins have emerged with Johnny Drama-style victories in 11 of their last 12 games and vaulted back into first place in the Northeast Division.

Chara was again one of the best players on the ice while blasting a power play goal and firing a team-high six shots on net in 26:17 of ice time in Bostons 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets Saturday night at TD Garden.

Not only has he been the consistent Tower of Power on defense his absence was never more obvious than when the Buffalo Sabres potted a pair of power play goals earlier this week while Chara was serving out his five minute penalty for fighting but hes been spurring the Black and Gold offense to boot.

In 12 games during the month of November Chara has 12 points (3 goals and 9 assists) along with a plus-12.

There's a reason he's one of the best, if not the best, defenseman in the league. He does a lot, said Chris Kelly. He plays penalty kill, he plays power play, he's on last minute if we're down a goal and hes on last minute if were up by a goal. Obviously every team would take him in a heartbeat and I think we're extremely lucky to have him.

Chara is averaging more than 25 minutes a game during the 12 games in November, and the big defenseman is putting up 3.67 shots per game while filling the net with slap shots fired from between the two face-off dots, which has also created offensive chances for his forwards hunting out rebounds in front of the net.

Charas big contribution on Saturday was the power play bomb from the right point position that halved the Jets lead in the first period. The goal arrived with less than four minutes to go in the first period and allowed the Bruins to gather a little steam headed into the first intermission.

With the momentum seized away from Winnipeg, Chris Kellys two-goal heroics in the second period put Boston in position to win.

Charas goal was huge, coming in two-one, said Johnny Boychuk. Its way better than two-nothing and gave us a little boost for the second and it did, and we came out, and that did the job.

Chara even played the role of victim in the second period with the game tied and less than seven minutes to go in the middle 20 minutes: Alex Burmistrov slammed Chara into the corner from behind with no regard for his safety or well-being. The hit on the B's captain drew a boarding penalty and sent the slippery Russian winger to the penalty box.

The B's surge only continued from there.

Perhaps it was a little more difficult to get up for Saturdays game given how slowly the Bruins approached things out of the starting gate, but the win showed how much things have changed for Boston post-Cup. Where once the Bruins might have struggled to find motivation against a middling team like Winnipeg, now Chara and Co. have whats needed to snap out of an underachieving funk.

In the first we were not maybe as sharp as we should have been, said Chara. Maybe that was the case when we were playing our third game in the fourth night.

If you dont have your legs you have to move the puck and thats what we were focusing on . . . moving the puck. Its about making simple plays and putting a lot of pressure on them especially in the offensive zone. We were much better in the second and I thought the third was our best. It was really nice that we bounced back the second twenty and got the lead.

The leadership and defensive intangibles of Big 'Z' are always going to be easy topics of discussion, but Charas offensive output over the last three weeks shows the kind of consistency and high-end production that make him one of the greatest defensemen in the league among the NHLs elite.

Hes been playing like it since November started and his team needed him most.

Monday, Jan. 23: Yandle endorses Coyotes

Monday, Jan. 23: Yandle endorses Coyotes

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while sorting through all the Bruins-related alternative facts out there.

*Matthew Tkachuk is having some disagreements with his parents about his mouth-guard usage with the Calgary Flames.

*Former Yotes D-man Keith Yandle says that the Arizona Coyotes “know what they’re doing” despite their decent to the cellar in the Western Conference.

*Insights on every goaltending situation in the NHL from the crack ESPN.com staff breaking down the fantasy rankings.

*The struggles continue for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they can’t seem to gain any traction in the Atlantic Division.

*Wayne Simmonds took the blame for a late penalty that led to Philly’s undoing as they battle for playoff position in the East.

*Sounds like Patrik Laine might be nearing a return to the lineup, and that’s a very good thing for the Winnipeg Jets.

*For something completely different: We have a title for the next Star Wars film. It’s going to be called “The Last Jedi.”

Rask missing from Bruins practice after Sunday exit

Rask missing from Bruins practice after Sunday exit

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- A day after exiting a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins with complications from migraines, Tuukka Rask was missing from a full Bruins team practice at Warrior Ice Arena prior to Tuesday night’s home date against the Detroit Red Wings.

Rask pulled himself out of the game midway through the second period with his team trailing after he’d stopped 20-of-22 shots, and was motioning toward his eyes as he exited for the Bruins dressing room. The Bruins goalie confirmed to reporters following the deflating loss that he indeed was suffering from ocular issues consistent with migraines, the same issue that knocked him out of a home loss to the Rangers a couple of years ago.

The Bruins brought in an emergency goalie to practice with the team on Monday along with backup netminder Zane McIntyre, who allowed three goals in the third period on the way to the Bruins imploding in Pittsburgh.

Both Colin Miller and Kevan Miller returned to practice on Monday morning, and the Bruins coaches shook up the forward lines after they were only able to cobble together one goal on 45 shots on Sunday afternoon. Torey Krug was also missing from practice along with Rask.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings based on Monday morning’s practice that started roughly an hour late due to the team doing some video work together:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Krejci-Backes

Schaller-Nash-Beleskey

Spooner-Moore-Czarnik/Hayes

Chara-Carlo

Liles-McQuaid

K. Miller-C. Miller

Morrow

McIntyre