Zdeno Chara won’t rest easy as season winds down
Zdeno Chara will turn 42 on March 18, as he will be reminded in the coming weeks. But the league’s second-oldest player doesn’t want to rest, even though the Bruins are solidly in playoff position.
“I’ve done it in the past, and to be honest with you, it’s hurt me more than helped me,” Chara said after Friday’s practice, a day after the Bruins’ 4-1 win over NHL-leading Tampa.
In his 21st season in the league, Chara averages 20:58 a night, third on the Bruins behind Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug.
Graybeards who work like Chara are exceedingly rare. Last year, when he spent most of the year at 40, he logged 1,672 minutes. It was the fourth-most TOI since by a quadragenarian since the NHL began keeping time on ice stats in 1997. The others: age-40 seasons by Ray Bourque (2000-01), Chris Chelios (2001-02) and Nicklas Lidstrom (2010-11).
Had he not missed 19 games with a torn MCL, from which he returned Dec. 27, he would be on track for the busiest age-41 season ever.
Chara will take all the games he can get — 1,627 and counting, including playoffs — and said he will report for every practice. “If there’s not something that I need to have treated, I’m going on the ice to work.”
“I want to play the game. That’s my job. I love to play the game. Taking games off is the worst thing you can do. I hate it.”
But now is the time of the year the Bruins (38-17-9), who continue a six-game homestand on Saturday against the struggling Devils (7 p.m.), can tailor their practice schedule to maximize rest. Friday’s practice, a night after a 4-1 statement/shellacking of NHL-best Tampa, was a short one. Players were on the ice for about 25 minutes.
Patrice Bergeron had a day off, his second this week — he also sat out Wednesday’s practice. (He was dealing with an illness in recent weeks.) Coach Bruce Cassidy has spoken with veterans David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Chara, among others, about taking so-called maintenance days.
Chara won’t blame anyone for taking the option.
“Our schedule is heavy,” he said. “Playing 82 games with travel is hard. It’s a heavy sport.”
But he wants to keep moving.
“If you work hard and keep doing your thing,” he said, “and take care of your body and don’t get lazy and don’t take anything for granted, your body will take care of you.”
■ Sean Kuraly (concussion protocol) will not face the Devils on Saturday. The Bruins recalled Peter Cehlarik, who will skate left wing on the third line, with Charlie Coyle and David Backes. Joakim Nordstrom drops to fill Kuraly’s left wing spot on the fourth line. Kuraly was slow to get up after taking a third-period knock from Tampa defenseman Braydon Coburn. “We liked the way he was going,” Cassidy said of Cehlarik. “He was doing his job.” If Kuraly misses extended time, Cassidy said he may give Cehlarik another ride with Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, partly because he liked Cehlarik on that line, and partly because he wants to see how Marcus Johansson plays with fellow newcomer Coyle.
■ A lingering upper body injury will keep Kevan Miller, who blocked a shot nine days before in Vegas, out of the lineup on Saturday for a third consecutive game. John Moore, who like Johansson is a former Devil, will again skate with Matt Grzelcyk.
■ Tuukka Rask, who extended his point streak to 16 consecutive decisions (13-0-3) dating to Dec. 29 (1.99 GAA, .931, two shutouts), will start against the Devils. Last season, Rask earned a point in 21 straight decisions (19-0-2) from November to February. Rask, according to the NHL, is one of four goalies to have a multiple 16-decision point streaks. The others: Pete Peeters with the Flyers (27 in 1979-80) and Bruins (21 in 1982-83); and Montreal’s George Hainsworth (18 and 16 from 1927-29) and Ken Dryden (18 and 16 from 1977-79).