Bruins

Chara tones down his offseason training slightly

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Chara tones down his offseason training slightly

LAS VEGAS, NV Zdeno Chara is still going strong at 35 years old, and will serve as a Norris Trophy Finalist for the fifth time in his career as evidence of his continued dominance for the Bruins.

But even the biggest, the baddest and the best get slow downat some point, and that process is beginning for the 6-foot-9 defenseman as he heads into the long back nine of his NHL career. Chara led all defensemen with a plus-33 and led the Bruins to their third Northeast Division title in four years, and posted a career-high 52 points while averaging 25 minutes of ice time per night.

Chara is up against two defensemen still basking in youthful prime with Nashvilles Shea Weber and Ottawas Erik Karlsson, and the Bs defenseman said it could come down to a simple matter of taste among the voters.

Its not stressful. I was nervous the first time I was nominated, Chara said. You get a little bit nervous when it comes down to your category. That never gets old. Hopefully you get the votes and this is the year. No matter how you look at it, its very close.

For a number of writers and for people that are eligible to vote everybody likes something different. You have three cars in front of you: you have the BMW, you have the Mercedes and you have the Porsche. A hundred people are going to like the Mercedes, a hundred people are going to like the BMW and the rest are going to like the Porsche. Every guy is a winner maybe in the different worlds of each different group of writers. It just comes down to the total scores of votes. Of course you want to win. Its a huge honor.

So which car is Chara?

He wouldnt answer the question, but he probably is best described as a Slovakian tank or a Mack Truck with a hemmie.

Karlsson is clearly going to get a large number of votes after putting up 78 points this season, and finishing with nearly 30 more points than anybody else in the defensemen category. But the Sens D-man also was fifth on his own team in ice time on the penalty kill and didnt face the toughest offensive competition while trying to live up to his positional name.

One interesting footnote to Charas training: the 35-year-old fitness freak admits that hes scaled down his once maniacal training regimen. The long, punishing bike rides through the hills and mountains have been toned down slightly, and Chara has found the recharge button that hockey players need during the summer.

Its a great question. Every time after the season I sit back and make a little change to my preparation for the next season. I get older, but I also get wiser about the way that I train, said Chara. You do more in some things and less in others. You pay more attention.

In some ways I do less biking than I did before, and I do other stuff instead. When you look at it now I was biking maybe six or seven hours each day, and maybe that was a little too much. Now I try to train hard, but not in the volume of those hours as before. Then youre not gaining anything.

An older, stronger, wiser Chara must be a scary thought for opponents, regardless of whether or not he takes his second career Norris Trophy.

Inconsistent Bruins hope to settle in at home

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Inconsistent Bruins hope to settle in at home

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins' actual 2-3-0 won-loss record isn’t particularly terrible, especially when you consider they were without Patrice Bergeron and David Backes.

But they've been wildly inconsistent within those first five games, playing a couple of very good games against the Predators and Coyotes while suffering three ugly, non-competitive losses to Colorado and Vegas. The Bruins are 20th in goals scored (2.8 goals per game) and 22nd in goals allowed (3.6), and their special teams have been average at best in a soft part of the schedule that should have allowed them to get off to a good start.

The Bruins have looked sloppy much of the time with chaotic breakouts, far too many breakdowns in defensive coverage, and goaltending has been average at best.

As a result they're scuffling in the Atlantic Division as the Lightning and Maple Leafs have sprinted out to strong starts. Clearly it’s still early -- nearly the entire season is in front of them -- but there’s also no illusion about the need for a quick turnaround in what’s going to be a competitive division.

That's why the next four games, all at TD Garden, are so important.

“We’ve been inconsistent in our game. We’ve been good and we’ve been not good, so hopefully being home will allow us to get back into form,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “We knew going in with a youth movement that we’d had some ups and downs. We’ve had both. We’ve had some really strong games and we’ve had some other games where there’s a learning curve.

“As good as [our] prospects are, it falls on the core group to be solid and consistent every night. Then you lose a bit of your core group [to injuries] and you need your support players that aren’t your core group -- but aren’t kids, either -- to contribute. So we’re battling through all of that, and it’s up to us to put in a game plan that gets us through it. We haven’t achieved the level we’d like. We aren’t hiding behind that. We’d like to be better than we are right now, and we’re facing it head on every day.”

Clearly there are plenty of players in the “support player” category referenced by Cassidy who haven’t performed to date, and that also explains some of the Bruins consistency issues. Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, Frank Vatrano and Riley Nash have a combined two assists and a combined minus-5 rating through those first five games, and are among the players that need to step up and perform if the Bruins are going to start achieving the consistency that Cassidy is actively seeking right now.

Rask helped off ice at Bruins practice after collision

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Rask helped off ice at Bruins practice after collision

BRIGHTON, Mass – Tuukka Rask had to be helped off the ice midway through practice Wednesday when it appeared rookie Anders Bjork crashed hard into the Bruins No. 1 goaltender in a drill. 

Coach Bruce Cassidy didn't have much in the way of an encouraging update on Rask following practice: "He left early. We had a line rush drill where there was obviously contact around the net. He's being evaluated. Hopefully, he's fine, but we don't know anything until he gets checked out."

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Rask never returned in what looked like another streak of bad luck for the B’s. Rask is off to a slow start at 1-3-0, with a 3.30 goals-against average and .882 save percentage, but Boston can ill afford to lose their top goalie right now.

The Bruins continue to look for the right mix of players at the start of the season and they’ve called up a couple of forwards off to hot starts in Providence for a look.

Big, skilled Slovakian winger Peter Cehlarik and AHL scoring champ Kenny Agostino have both been called up while it looks like some struggling NHL veterans, perhaps Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano, might be hitting the pine.

The two call-ups, along with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson were off to a red-hot start in Providence: Agostino leads Providence with two goals and five assists for seven points (tied for third in AHL) with a plus-four rating in three games this season. Cehlarik is second on the team with two goals and three assists for five points with a plus-three rating in three games with Providence.

Patrice Bergeron was again wearing the maroon no-contact jersey at practice on Wednesday while participating in line drills, and it would appear it’s going to be a stretch for him to be available vs. the Canucks. Adam McQuaid returned to practice on Wednesday, so Ryan Spooner was the only injured Bruins regular that wasn’t able to suit up and practice with the team.

Tuukka Rask had to be helped off the ice midway through practice when it looked like Anders Bjork crashed hard into the Bruins No. 1 goaltender in a drill. Rask never returned in what looked like another streak of bad luck for the B’s. Rask is off to a slow start at 1-3-0, with a 3.30 goals-against average and .882 save percentage, but Boston can ill afford to lose their top goalie right now.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Wednesday afternoon’s practice with it looking like David Backes might be up for a possible return on Thursday:  
 
Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Schaller-Kuraly-Backes
Cehlarik-Nash-Agostino
 
Beleskey-White-Vatrano
 
Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Miller-Postma
McQuaid
 
Rask
Khudobin