BOLTON, Mass. – The Bruins will be sending a large contingent of their NHL roster over to China for a week-plus trip that will include a couple of preseason games against the Calgary Flames September 15 and 19. Still, there will be several notable absences from the traveling contingent.
The B's 41-year-old captain Zdeno Chara will stay behind in Boston along with Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug, Anders Bjork and Noel Acciari, who will stay behind with the Bruins training staff to rehab injuries. Sean Kuraly and Danton Heinen will also remain in Boston after they manned the Bruins goodwill trip to China earlier this summer.
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Bergeron (groin surgery), Krug (fractured ankle), Bjork (shoulder surgery) and Acciari (sports hernia surgery) may not be ready to play preseason games at the beginning of the schedule, so it didn’t make sense for the Black and Gold to truck them all the way to China.
“Chara isn’t going...Noel Acciari...Torey Krug. [Bergeron, Acciari and Krug] are injury-related. We knew they’d be skating now and we’d assume they’ll all be ready, but if they’re not able to play games it’s a long way to go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “I’m not saying they will or won’t be able to play games, but [that was the thinking] when we made this decision a month ago. Kuraly and Heinen won’t go simply because they went in July and to save on the wear and tear [of travel].
“But we’re bringing the three young centers [Jack Studnicka, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Trent Frederic] because we’d like to see them over there. That’s the reason we’re taking them; we think there’s going to be some internal competition for that third line center position. [Kuraly] and Chris Wagner will certainly be in that mix as well, so that’s the five guys that are regulars.”
As for Chara, the idea of traveling from a European time zone to East Coast time and then zipping over to China for the roughly 12-hour time difference wasn’t something he was particularly looking forward to at the start of an 82-game season. So the 6-foot-9 D-man will instead stick behind and lead the young crew expected to work under the watchful eye of assistant coach Joe Sacco while Cassidy, Jay Pandolfo and goaltending coach Bob Essensa all head to China with the rest of the team.
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“I was asked early in May or June if I would like to go, and I said I wouldn’t mind it. But now it’s just kind of that I’m totally okay staying back. I’m not sad or upset about it,” said Chara, who seemed to pretty clearly prefer staying behind in Boston. “I’m kind of glad I’m staying back. I don’t have to deal with the travel and the different time zones. I’ve just come back from Europe, so I know the guys will be dealing with quite a few time differences when they go out there and then when they come back.
“I can always enjoy some more time being in Boston. There is plenty of time to [visit China] later on so I’m not worried about it.”
Given Chara’s clear preference, it does beg the question as to how such a globe-trotting trip is going to impact the Black and Gold early in the season. The good news is that two of the most important Bruins -- Bergeron and Chara -- will be skipping all of the festivities, but that isn’t going to save the rest of the team from potential early-season fatigue after returning home a couple of weeks before the October 3 season-opener in Washington.
The Bruins began a partnership with Beijing-based O.R.G. Packaging in 2015. They first hosted Chinese youth hockey players for clinics in Boston in 2016 and had a contingent, including David Pastrnak, travel to China that same year to conduct clinics there. Last year, Torey Krug joined Pastrnak and other Bruins past and present who held clinics in Beijing and Shanghai.