Zdeno Chara (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Bruins' defense corps got a scare Thursday when captain Zdeno Chara left Boston's game against the Islanders with an knee injury that will sideline him at least 4-6 weeks and may require surgery. Can the Bruins' already-depleted defense corps handle matters in his absence?
(NOTE – This post has been updated twice. See below.)
The Boston Bruins' blueline took a salary cap-related hit prior to the season with the trading of veteran Johnny Boychuk – and it got another scare with potentially bigger ramifications Thursday when captain Zdeno Chara left the team's game against the Islanders with an undisclosed injury. His final shift of the game ended with 8:12 remaining in the first period, and Bruins coach Claude Julien offered no update on his condition after Boston's 3-2 loss to the Isles.
On his last shift Thursday, Chara laid into Isles captain John Tavares with a solid check, but didn't give any indication he was injured on the play:
It should go without saying that any major injury to Chara would be devastating to the Bruins' Stanley Cup aspirations. The combination of Boychuk's departure and an injury to Kevan Miller had thinned out Boston's defense before the night began, and this team wasn't playing all that well to begin with (the loss to the Isles gives them a 4-5-0 mark) even with Chara in the lineup. But soon, or at some point this year, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli may use some of the salary cap space he freed up with the Boychuk trade to address his depth on the back end.
Bruins fans will be crossing all available fingers that Chara's injury is something minor and the remaining crew of Dennis Seidenberg, Dougie Hamilton, Adam McQuaid, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski can hold the fort until he's in decent enough condition to return. But Chara will be 38 years old in March. Even someone who takes incredible care of himself as Chara does eventually taps out to the submission hold of Father Time.
Bruins fans don't have to fear Chara's effectiveness will disappear tomorrow, the day after that, or two months thereafter. They should start envisioning life without him sooner than later and soften the eventual blow that comes when all legends march proudly and reluctantly into the history books.
UPDATE 2: Ward is now reporting Chara has a left knee ligament injury that will keep him sidelined for a minimum of 4-to-6 weeks and may require surgery. Goalie Tuukka Rask, center Patrice Bergeron and Boston's other veterans are going to need to carry more of the load for the short term, but if Chara is gone for the season, the Bruins are going to be in for a much tougher challenge than they'd imagined – and the Eastern Conference will have become even more wide open.