MONTREAL, QC - MAY 12: Kevan Miller #86 of the Boston Bruins shoots the puck against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on May 12, 2014 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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Kevan Miller a game-time decision for Chara-less Bruins

The Boston Bruins will be without Zdeno Chara tonight in Ottawa, but they could get Kevan Miller back.

Head coach Claude Julien said this morning that Miller will be a game-time decision. The 29-year-old defenseman has yet to make his 2016-17 debut. He had hand surgery on Oct. 11, two days before the Bruins opened their season.

If Miller does play, it will likely mean another game in the press box for Colin Miller. The 24-year-old has been a healthy scratch the past four games. He has one goal and one assist in 15 games, with a minus-6 rating.

As for Kevan Miller, tonight could mark his first game for the Bruins since signing a four-year, $10 million extension. Last season, the 29-year-old set career highs in NHL games played (71), goals (5), assists (13), and average ice time (19:04).

It was not all roses for the undrafted University of Vermont product. That Miller had to play such a large role became emblematic of the Bruins’ issues on the right side of their defense, and he heard it from the fans at times. In the end, among Boston d-men, only Chara and Torey Krug logged more ice time than Miller.

This season, the surprising play of rookie Brandon Carlo has alleviated some of the concerns about the right side. But Carlo will be tested tonight without Chara as his partner. The 19-year-old will likely skate with veteran John-Michael Liles, while Krug is expected to pair with Adam McQuaid, and Joe Morrow will be with one of the Millers, probably Kevan.

Bruins say Chara has a lower-body injury, ‘doubtful’ for next two games

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 01:  Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the second period at TD Garden on March 1, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Zdeno Chara will not travel with the Boston Bruins for Thursday’s game in Ottawa. The B’s said this morning that Chara suffered a lower-body injury last night against St. Louis and that a further update would be provided Friday prior to their home game against Calgary.

Chara logged 9:04 against the Blues before getting hurt and leaving in the second period. The Bruins had leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but would go on to lose, 4-2.

Colin Miller was a healthy scratch against St. Louis, so he could come in against the Sens. The Bruins also expect to get Kevan Miller (hand) back shortly.

But even at 39, Chara is still the Bruins’ best defenseman. He’s been paired all season with rookie Brandon Carlo, who admitted he “struggled a little bit” without his veteran partner against the Blues.

“It’s definitely a little more responsibility on myself to to get in better positions there and keep those ones out of the net,” Carlo said, per CSNNE. 

“We just have to keep it simple, and that is something I was struggling with you could say. Moving the puck up – I needed to do it a little bit faster and be a little bit stronger out there for sure. Definitely not happy with the end of my second period, you know, but I think that’s just mainly my responsibility to keep playing the way that I can no matter who is across from me.”

Carlo finished minus-2 on the night, while Torey Krug logged the most ice time among the Bruins at 24:44.

Based on this morning’s practice, Carlo could skate with John-Michael Liles against the Sens, with Krug and Adam McQuaid together on the other top-4 pairing.

Update:

Zdeno Chara injured as Bruins lose to Blues

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The big question mark for the Boston Bruins this season was always going be their defense.

It was their biggest weakness last season, and after doing little to address the position over the summer it was almost certain to be an area of concern once again. Those concerns had to grow a little on Tuesday night when defenseman Zdeno Chara — still their best player on the blue line — had to leave their 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues early in the second period with an undisclosed injury. He did not return.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the game that he had no update on Chara’s status.

Whatever the injury is, his absence seemed to be the turning point in the game.

After former Blues captain David Backes gave his new team an early 1-0 lead, the Blues were able to rally with three goals in the second period, including two just two minutes apart.

Paul Stastny‘s goal, which came shortly after Robert Bortuzzo scored his first of the season to tie the game at two, goes in the books as the game-winner.

For as thin as the Bruins defense looks on paper, their goals against numbers this season have been among the best in the league thanks in large part to starting goaltender Tuukka Rask returning to the elite level the Bruins have been used to seeing him at in recent years. Entering play on Tuesday he had an 11-2-0 record to go with a .946 save percentage. Without him in the lineup the Bruins are 0-5-0 while their backup goaltenders have a combined save percentage below .860.

No matter who the goalie is, it is a defense that needs some work and losing Chara, even if he is not quite as dominant as he was a few years ago, would certainly be a big problem.

The Blues, meanwhile, have now won four games in a row.

Inconsistency was the story of their season through the first month, but after getting blown out in Columbus a little more than a week ago they are starting to resemble the team they were expected to be when the season began. Jake Allen had to make 39 saves on Tuesday, which is probably more than Ken Hitchcock wants to see, but most of that work came in the third period as the Blues were trying to hold off a push from the Bruins in their comeback attempt.

Jori Lehtera scored two goals for St. Louis, including one in the first period that was upheld after the Bruins challenged for potential goaltender interference.

The Blues are back in action on Wednesday night in Washington.

WATCH LIVE: St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 22: David Backes #42 of the Boston Bruins celebrates his goal against the St. Louis Blues with teammates Ryan Spooner #51, Patrice Bergeron #37 and David Krejci #46 during the third period at TD Garden on November 22, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)
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After appearing in 727 regular season games with the St. Louis Blues, David Backes will face his former team on Tuesday night for the first time after signing a five-year contract with the Boston Bruins in free agency this past summer.

Backes and the Bruins will be looking to continue their recent strong play when they host the Blues live on NBCSN at 7  p.m. ET.

The Bruins come into the game having won eight of their past 11 games thanks in large part to an incredible start to the season for goaltender Tuukka Rask.

Backes has seven points in 13 games for the Bruins so far this season.

The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to extend their current winning streak to four games and gain some ground on the first place Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division.

You can catch all of the action on NBCN or on live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE.

Preview for Blues vs. Bruins

 

Report: Vatrano (foot) could return to Bruins lineup before Christmas

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 17:  Frank Vatrano #72 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden on November 17, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Sharks defeat the Bruins 5-4.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Frank Vatrano has yet to suit up for the Boston Bruins this season, but he took another step this week toward changing that.

He reportedly skated on Tuesday for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments in his foot after he suffered an injury during offseason training.

He was initially expected to miss at least three months as a result of the injury, but there could be a light approaching quicker than anyone thought on the horizon.

From CSNNE:

Given he’s resumed skating, it’s likely that Vatrano is a few weeks away from being able to rejoin practicing with the team and could be looking at a 2 ½ month return to game action from injury rather than the three month timetable initially set out for him. In essence, Vatrano might be able to return prior to Christmas when it was initially assumed he’d be out for the 2016 portion of the 2016-17 regular season.

This is promising news for the Bruins, who are among the bottom third of the league when it comes to scoring, with 2.44 goals-for per game.

Vatrano has been a prolific scorer at the American Hockey League level, with 36 goals in 36 games last season in Providence. That’s a ridiculous rate and he has shown glimpses that his prowess could carry over to the NHL.

The 22-year-old forward had eight goals in 39 games in Boston last season, which included a hat trick in December against the Penguins.

Related: Looking to make the leap: Frank Vatrano