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Bruins’ alumni game provides a first for Zdeno Chara - playing alongside Ray Bourque

Zdeno Chara was back on skates for the first time since his last game with the Islanders in the spring, playing on an Alumni squad in the Nathan H. Hardy Game against a Navy team.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

It was the defense pair of Bruins fans’ dreams: Zdeno Chara on the left side of the blue line, and Ray Bourque on the right.

Nearly a half-century of combined NHL experience, two Stanley Cup titles, six Norris Trophies, 3,292 games, and 2,259 points. One first-ballot Hall of Famer (Class of 2004) and another who will surely earn the same honor in 2025.

They lined up together at a sold-out Warrior Ice Arena on Saturday for the Nathan H. Hardy Memorial Game, benefitting three charities: the Warrior for Life Fund, Fisher House Boston, and Operation Hat Trick. The Bruins alumni team played against active and retired members of the Navy in memory of Hardy, a SEAL who died in Iraq in 2008.


Chara, who lives in the suburbs with his family, had never played with Bourque before.

“Absolute honor,” he said. “Such a legend of the sport, for the city, for the organization. Even if it’s a charity game for a good cause, it’s a privilege and honor.”

Chara, 45, was hoping to start slow. He hadn’t put on his skates since his final game with the Islanders in April. He looked as if he was having a decent enough time out there, concentrating on playing lockdown defense while throwing a few soft outlet passes. Later in the game, he faked a slap shot on a defender before scooting around him, and tried a lacrosse-style move from behind the net.

“It’s nice, actually,” Chara said of returning to the ice. “It’s nice to be considered a young fella.”

It may have been the most youthful team in Bruins alumni history, with Chara, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Chris Bourque, Andrew Raycroft, and Andrew Alberts suiting up. They hoped to beat a group that had some players with college experience.

“Last year they actually beat us,” Bruins foundation president and ex-Bruins forward Bob Sweeney said. “We brought in some young blood.”


That did not include Ray Bourque, who was happy to take a breather while the young legs churned.

“A little less work for me. I’m turning 62 this month. Should be fun,” Bourque said. “I hope their expectations aren’t too high on my game. Mine are certainly high for theirs.”

Miller, whose knee injuries ended his career, said he felt good physically. Like any retired pro athlete, he’s struggling to find outlets for his competitive fire. Miller, who lives in Utah, said he spends his time hunting.

“I haven’t skated in a while, but other than that, everything’s been good,” Miller said. “Keeping busy and being with family. Body’s hanging in there.”

In the locker room, pregame chatter was about the current Bruins, who opened the season 19-3-0.

“I’ve been impressed with the depth,” Bourque said. “That’s always a question when you’re coming into the season, with your bottom six and your D. They’re tremendous in that department. They’re on a roll. Solid in all areas from goaltending out. To do what they did, especially with three key regulars out of their lineup, it’s hard. To find a way to win and play well really says a lot about this group.

“As a fan, it’s fun to watch. Can’t wait to see what happens.”

Colorado connections

Other than Colorado Springs product Brandon Carlo, the Bruins, who beat the Avalanche, 5-1, Saturday night, have a Colorado connection in fourth-line right wing A.J. Greer. The Boston University product was a second-round pick (39th overall) by the Avalanche in 2015, and played his first four pro seasons in that organization.


He appeared in 37 NHL games (1-5—6) there. He was an AHL All-Star in 2017. But his final year under contract (2019-20) slipped by without an NHL call-up, and he passed through the Islanders and Devils systems in the last two seasons before landing here on a two-year, $1.525 million deal last summer.

More mature at 25, he has become a valuable fourth-line right wing for Boston (3-4—7 in 17 games). Coach Jim Montgomery sees a forward who understands his role.

“His details defensively have really improved,” Montgomery said. “I give him [credit] first, working on it, and [assistants] Joe Sacco and Chris Kelly. I think his puck protection has really improved. He’s one of our better forwards down low holding onto the puck and getting to scoring areas with the puck.”

Anton Blidh on Avalanche fourth line

Anton Blidh, a 2013 Bruins sixth-rounder who spent his first seven pro seasons with the organization, landed in Colorado last summer on a one-year minimum ($750,000) deal. He is scoreless (0-0–0) in eight games on the Avalanche’s fourth line. The gritty, but little-used Blidh (70 games with Boston in six years) had 4-8—12 with the Spoked-B varsity. On Saturday, Blidh landed two shots and two hits in 8:44 … Before the three-day Christmas break, the Bruins play 11 games in 23 days. That’s a game every other day except for a two-day break leading into a Dec. 22-23 back-to-back. They bookend Christmas with another two-in-two (Dec. 27-28), host the Sabres in a Dec. 31 matinee, and then prepare for the Penguins in the Jan. 2 Winter Classic at Fenway … Speaking after Friday’s workout, Montgomery liked having a few extra practice days that week, but felt “it’s time for us to get into game rhythm again,” he said. “The players want to play games. We want to coach games. There’s not much more to continue to practice on. Today we were 25 minutes, because I think we know where we are with our game, and we just want to get ready for [Saturday] night. I think we’re ready” … Montgomery stuck with the same lineup Saturday, but said after the morning skate he planned to rotate his skaters in the coming days and weeks .… Linus Ullmark improved his league-best numbers to 14-1-0 with a 1.93 goals against average and .936 save percentage ... Pavel Zacha (assist), now 3-13—16 in 22 games as a Bruin, might smash last year’s career-high 36-point year in New Jersey ... Jake DeBrusk (100th career goal) had another called back because Nathan MacKinnon pushed him into the net, dislodging it just enough for a no-goal call


Matt Porter can be reached at matthew.porter@globe.com. Follow him @mattyports.