Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

How Zdeno Chara got ready during Christmas to return to Bruins’ lineup

Matt Kalman
December 27, 2018 - 1:47 pm

It takes a lot to keep Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara off the ice.

Like you have to shut a building down to stop him from skating.

Chara is scheduled to return to the Bruins lineup Thursday against the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden after missing 19 games with a left MCL injury. In the leadup to his return Chara was hoping to get as much as ice time as he could, even while the NHL was on its three-day Christmas break.

The operators of Warrior Ice Arena were ready to make the ice available to Chara but the building that houses the rink at 90 Guest Street was closed down for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. So instead Chara worked out off the ice for two days and returned to the ice on his own Wednesday (7-8 a.m.), while the league was still on its break, in preparation for his first game in six weeks.

The Bruins went 10-7-2 without Chara, a stretch of games that saw others, including Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, also miss time because of injuries. Amazingly Chara is returning to a Bruins team that’s in the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and trails the Buffalo Sabres by three points for third place in the Atlantic Division.

“Yeah, it is [encouraging], especially because at one point we had six, seven guys out of the lineup and we were still getting points, we were still getting big W’s. So that was for sure encouraging,” Chara said.

After skating and working out Wednesday, Chara visited seven different Boston-area shelters. With the help of New Balance he distributed 3,333 pairs of socks to those in need. He got to rub elbows with Boston mayor Marty Walsh and make a difference in many people’s lives.

Chara hopes to do even more giving back in the near future. But now his focus on the Devils and, along with the return of Kevan Miller, putting some snarl back in the Bruins’ defense corps.

“I think we’re a tougher matchup for the skill guys on the other team,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “[Miller] and Zee both relish playing against good offensive players and they take a lot of pride in shutting them down and hopefully leaving with a few welts on their body.

More Halak

Jaroslav Halak will start for the fifth time in the past seven games. Cassidy said the Bruins are trying to find the right way to divide up the Bruins’ games between Halak and Tuukka Rask with the schedule a little lighter than it was in past months.

“Well we’d like to go with the hot hand yet keep them both active, right, which is hard, unless you’re playing those four-game weeks, which seem to be behind us for a little bit now,” Cassidy said. “So we’re going to have to see how that goes. So to answer your question it’s day by day right now. And hopefully they both get hot, push each other. That’s the best-case scenario.”

Halak has won his past three starts.

Warm thoughts

With two games remaining before the 2019 Winter Classic in South Bend, Indiana against the Chicago Blackhawks, Cassidy hasn’t thought much about coaching his first NHL outdoor game – except for some concerns about how he’s going to stay warm.

“I have not thought that far ahead, only if we’re leaving tomorrow to go to Buffalo, what do I need to pack?” Cassidy said. “So I asked the trainers, do I need a jacket, do I need to pack a turtleneck and long underwear, how does that work, because are the benches heated. So starting to think a little bit of that part of it, just so I can stay warm."