BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Bruins could be without captain Zdeno Chara when they take on the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Chara did not go to the arena at all Wednesday, 36 hours after taking a puck to the jaw in Boston’s Game 4 loss that tied the series at two games apiece. Coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t talk to and only briefly texted with the 42-year-old defenseman, who has a facial injury that has been reported to be a broken jaw.
The absence of Chara could prove to be the tipping point in a bruising battle between the Bruins and Blues. Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is out with a concussion and St. Louis forward Robert Thomas is out with a suspected hand or wrist injury. Cassidy said Grzelcyk, who practiced in a no-contact jersey Wednesday, is still in concussion protocol and would need to be medically cleared in order to play in Game 5 on Thursday night.
Beating up opponents and winning the war of attrition has been an ingredient of the Blues’ playoff success. They took advantage of injuries to San Jose’s Erik Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl to move on to the final and are now two victories away from lifting the Stanley Cup as the healthier team.
If Boston is without two of its top five defensemen in Chara and Grzelcyk, it would mean bigger roles for John Moore and Connor Clifton and the possibility of Steven Kampfer seeing his first action since Game 1 of the East final. Finnish blue liner Urho Vaakanainen skated with the Bruins, but Cassidy called him a ”real longshot” to play for the first time since April 26.
Meanwhile, St. Louis is relatively healthy except for Thomas. The Blues got puck-moving defenseman Vince Dunn back for Game 4 after he missed almost three weeks after taking a puck to the face in the West final.
It appears rugged Robert Bortuzzo will return to the Blues’ lineup in place of Joel Edmundson, who had his ice time reduced for performance reasons by coach Craig Berube in Game 4 . Bortuzzo came out when Dunn was ready to return but has two goals in the past two rounds despite not being much of a scorer.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno