MONTREAL - When Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli grabbed Mark Recchi at the trade deadline, he found a winger to match Chuck Kobasew.
Recchi, 41, was added to Kobasew's line with centre Patrice Bergeron in the very first game he played with the Bruins, and the trio has since become a formidable checking line.
"Patrice has been playing some of his best hockey over the past couple of months, he really brought his game back to where it was before the injury," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "Kobasew is such a great player, he's a six-foot player who plays like a six-foot-three player.
"He'll bang in the corners, he'll crash the net, he's strong with the puck. When you add Mark Recchi on the left side, who's a lot like Kobasew just a few years older, as a threesome they do a great job. I really like the combination of that line."
Bergeron missed most of last season with a concussion.
Kobasew and Recchi have both put their stamp on the Bruins first-round playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens with their willingness to take abuse and compete for space on the ice.
Recchi and his constant presence in front of the net has been credited by teammates for the power play unit's success in the series, while Kobasew has scored two key goals by outhustling Montreal captain Saku Koivu to loose pucks.
They live about two hours apart in B.C., with Recchi spending his summers in Kelowna while Kobasew is from the border town of Osoyoos. Kobasew, 27, stands a modest five foot 11 and weighs 192 pounds, while Recchi is almost exactly the same size at five foot 10 and 195 pounds.
But their size doesn't stop either of them from battling with the big boys, whether it's being camped in front of the net like Recchi or digging in the corners for loose pucks like Kobasew.
"Recchi goes into those danger areas with reckless abandon, as does Chuck," Chiarelli said. "You watch Chuck on a forecheck, he gets pancaked but he still comes up with the puck."
Kobasew did exactly that in Game 2 in Boston, when he went after a loose puck along the boards in the Montreal zone and arrived at the very same moment as Canadiens defenceman Mike Komisarek. The six-foot-five, 243-pound Komisarek flattened Kobasew, but the puck squirted out to Marc Savard who scored to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead and send them on their way to a 5-1 victory.
"He tries to do whatever he can to help the team," Recchi said. "If that means getting crunched or blocking a shot, that's what he'll do, and he's great at it."
Kobasew is blessed with top-flight speed and a good shot, but he says it's his physical game that sets him apart.
"I'm not a big guy, but I try to play as hard as I can every night and I've got to be physical to be effective," he said. "It's just the way I've tried to play throughout my career. You've got to take pride in all zones and be physical when you can be. It's a part of my game that I have to do to have success."
It's also a part of his game that has put him on injured reserve more times than he would like to remember.
In the past three seasons, Kobasew has missed 15 games with concussion-related symptoms, 17 games with a broken elbow, nine games with back and groin issues, all of last year's playoffs with a broken leg and 12 games with a broken foot suffered in the first game of this season.
When he came to the Bruins from the Calgary Flames in a deadline-day deal in 2007, Chiarelli knew that injuries might be an issue with Kobasew but he was willing to take that risk.
"Players of that size that play the way Chuck plays, there's going to be injuries," Chiarelli said. "We got him because he played hard, so we accepted the whole package. He's an important player because he plays the way we want our players to play."