Bruins

Chara: I want to stay with Bruins, keep playing beyond this season

bruins_zdeno_chara_022217.jpg

Chara: I want to stay with Bruins, keep playing beyond this season

BRIGHTON, Mass – Zdeno Chara made it clear that he’s willing to talk about his future with the Boston Bruins whenever they make it a priority. After the 40-year-old expressed a desire for a contract extension at the end of last season, there was no discussion from either side this summer leading into the final year of his deal with the Black and Gold. That’s to be expected at this point in his career with an older player like Chara operating on a year-to-year basis, but the Bruins captain said he’s ready and willing whenever his longtime employer wants to have a discussion about his future – even if those negotiations wind up taking place during the season.  

“I love the game. I love everything about it. I love the sacrifice and I love the training. There are so many things that are so positive [about playing in the NHL]. At my age I look at what I can still do and just really enjoy it. I just want to keep improving and play for as long as I can,” said Chara, who made his first appearance at B’s captain’s practice on Tuesday with roughly 30 other B’s skaters. “I always felt I can play for a long time if I’m in good shape and if I can be healthy. So that’s what I wish for, that I can be healthy and play a long time while still being really effective and consistent. 

“I definitely want to play beyond this season. It’s really hard to put a number on it. Some people do and some people don’t. I just obviously want to keep playing [in the NHL] beyond this season. I love this game too much. I have made no secrets about it. I want to stay here [with the Bruins] and continue to play.”

If Chara has enjoys another season like last year then it should be a no-brainer that both sides would want to keep things going. The 40-year-old veteran spent the entire year in a shutdown pairing with 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and then skated with 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy in the playoffs once Carlo was lost to a concussion. 

Chara finished with 10 goals and 29 points in 75 games with a plus-18 rating and averaged 23:30 of ice time as Boston’s de facto No. 1 defenseman. Amazingly, Chara averaged more than 28 minutes of ice time per game in the playoffs once Carlo, Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid had all been lost to injury, and continued to show new energy in his game playing with the best young D-man prospects in Boston’s system. 

Chara freely admitted that his time skating with Carlo and McAvoy, both young enough to be his own children, benefitted him as much as his experienced helped shepherd them along. 

“I think it works both ways. I think oftentimes people only see one side of the pair, but honestly I enjoy being around the young guys. I look forward to coming to the rink every day and playing with them,” said Chara. “It’s a little bit of a teaching process and a little bit of friendship, and you’ve just got to have respect for each other no matter how many games each player has played [in the NHL]. Whether it’s on or off the ice, the key is communicating and talking things out for when you get on the ice.”

The proper play for the Bruins is to wait and see with Chara, who at 40 years old as a big-bodied, shutdown D-man is really beginning to defy the NHL odds. If the 6-foot-9 captain continues to play as well this season as he did last year – and remains healthy – there are plenty of good arguments to be made for a one or two-year contract at his current $4 million salary for the upcoming season. If Chara begins to break down or starts to really have trouble keeping pace with an NHL that gets faster and more athletic each and every season, then that’s going to speed up Boston’s plan for life after their future Hall of Fame defenseman. 

Clearly it may help Chara this season if the Bruins can further reduce his role where his minutes get scaled back a tick and simultaneously place an even greater focus on his basic shutdown role. But one has also learned not to doubt the prideful, tireless workhorse of a D-man that Chara has been for the last 20 years, and could be for another five at the NHL if the hockey gods see fit to keep him healthy for all that time.   

Backes hoping return from diverticulitis is 'on the upswing'

bruins_david_backes_121216.jpg

Backes hoping return from diverticulitis is 'on the upswing'

BRIGHTON, Mass – While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the Bruins medical staff before becoming a possibility, the Bruins aren’t ruling out a return from David Backes for Thursday night’s game vs. the Vancouver Canucks.

Both Backes and Patrice Bergeron returned to Bruins practice with the rest of their teammates on Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but it was only the 33-year-old Backes that practiced fully without any limitations.

“He skated a little while we were away and a full practice today, so we’ll consult with the medical staff going forward with his plan,” said B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Potentially he could be an option for Thursday, and I think that should sort itself out in the next couple of days. We’re no different than anybody else, right? We’d like to have our full complement, and some of the guys we’re missing are glue guys that could really add that element to some of the kinds of games that got away from us.”

MORE:

After the team practice, Backes said that he’s been skating for the last four days and that he’s lost about 10 pounds over the last couple of weeks while adjusting to the medication and dietary treatments for diverticulitis. It wasn’t a complete shock to Backes given some of his family medical history, but he wasn’t expecting anything like that to hit him in the prime of his professional athletic career at just 34 years old.

“I have a family history of it, but this is kind of unfortunate timing and unfortunate circumstances. Hopefully I take care of this, get it behind me and not have to ever think about it again,” said Backes. “The first couple of days it was tough to just stand up straight or do anything, and then you’re on a ‘no exercise’ regimen for six or seven days. So progress…certainly. A return…we’ll see. Long-term prognosis we’ll have to discuss with the really smart guys.

“You don’t have much appetite, to deal with pain you take a painkiller and then that slows down digestion and just makes it even worse. So you’re stuck there…and it really drains your energy. I was on a liquid diet there for a few days and lost about 10 pounds. I don’t suggest that as a crash diet for anybody.”

He’s come a long way from being stuck in a Mass General hospital bed during Bruins opening night against the Nashville Predators, and Backes is hoping he’ll be all the way back to playing sooner rather than later. The Bruins right winger skated in a third line spot with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller on Tuesday, and said he’s actually even consulted a bit with former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light, who battled his own stomach issues with Crohn’s Disease during his NFL career.

“I was like a kid in a candy store before practice. You have that carrot of Game 1 dangled in front of you and then taken away, and finally you’re back with the guys on the ice after they’ve been gone a week. Knowing what the results have been you want to interject a little energy out there while knowing that we’ve got 77 games left to establish ourselves, and find our game,” said Backes. “I felt good out there and it was nice to be back on the ice. I was smiling most of the day knowing that I’ll hopefully be playing some ice hockey in the future.

“We’re working to get that strength back and to return me to a productive member of this hockey team, which is going to be on the upswing here shortly. It’s not just due to me, but because guys are putting work in as a group. I’m trying to be as educated about it as I can, so I can be available as often as possible and as productive as possible when I am available.”

There are medical hurdles that need to be traversed by Backes before he can return, but once it becomes a matter of toughness and grit then he’ll be suiting up again for the Black and Gold, and that moment might be coming soon.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

bruins_tuukka_rask_110315.jpg

'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.

MORE:

That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.