Bruins face Game Five without Chára
It seems likely that the Boston Bruins will go into Thursday night’s crucial Stanley Cup series Game Five without their veteran defenceman Zdeno Chára, who was injured in Game Four.
Chára sustained a facial injury in the second period of that game at Enterprise Center, which saw the St. Louis Blues win 4-2 to level the series. Speaking about the impact of the loss of one of his most reliable players, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said that it was a hard blow to take:
“It was tough for me between periods, when we were told he wouldn’t be able to play, because he wants to play. If he was given the green light, no matter what the severity was, he’d be out there.”
Boston go into the game as favourites with sports betting companies, but Chára’s absence will be difficult to overcome, not just because of what the 42-year-old means to the Bruins organisation. His absence will leave a big hole in the line-up, which will mean a significant tactical reshuffle.
Fortunately for Cassidy, there was better news about another key defenceman, Matt Grzelcyk. He missed Games Three and Four after being hit by Oskar Sundqvist in Game Two. Sundqvist was given a one-game suspension for the foul, and Grzelcyk remains in the concussion protocol, but although he has not yet been cleared by team doctors, he was able to take part in the Bruins’ practice on Wednesday, and Cassidy remains hopeful that he will be available.
However, even if Grzelcyk is fit, Boston will still have to reshuffle their line-up. They employed Steven Kampfer on the third defence pair during practice, alongside Connor Clifton, while Grzelcyk and Urho Vaakanainen made up the fourth pairing. Vaakanainen, who was born in Finland, has only played two NHL games, both coming back in October, and has spent most of the season with Providence in the American Hockey League, where he last played on 26 April.
Boston have the option of lining up with 11 forwards and seven defencemen if Grzelcyk is cleared to play, with Kampfer added to the squad to offer a degree of protection, but they could also opt for a six-defenceman line-up, with Kampfer operating alongside Clifton on his weak side. Whichever option they choose, the Bruins know that they will be in for a tough game against a resilient Blues side, with Game Six coming up in St. Louis on Sunday.
Words: Stijn Janssen