(UPDATE: Chara will play in Game 5.)
BOSTON — Zdeno Chara’s status for Thursday’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final remains unclear.
The Boston Bruins defenseman wasn’t at TD Garden for Wednesday’s practice two days after taking a puck to the mouth in their Game 4 defeat. While reports state he has a broken jaw, there won’t be any update until at least Thursday. One encouraging sign was the sight of Matt Grzelcyk on the ice, though he skated in a non-contact jersey.
Grzelcyk, who’s been out since a Game 2 hit that put him in concussion protocol and and saw St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist suspended one game, said he was feeling better, but still needed to be cleared in order to make a return to the Bruins’ lineup.
“I think the toughest thing Is just not being out there with the team,” Grzelcyk said. “Having to sit and watch is tough. I’m just happy to be back around the guys, feeling a lot more like myself.”
With the absences of Chara and Grzelcyk, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy tweaked his defense pairings on Wednesday. John Moore, who’s been a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs, including Games 1 and 2 of the Cup Final, was playing on the top pairing with Charlie McAvoy. Steven Kampfer was out there with Connor Clifton. Grzelcyk skated with Urho Vaakanainen, who will likely not see any action if Cassidy decides to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
As the Bruins await status updates on Chara and Grzelcyk, it’ll once again be that next man up mentality.
“It kind of helped knowing we had a couple of days here to get ready for it,” said Kampfer. “Nobody really knows who’s in, who’s out [Thursday]. You’re mentally ready for any situation to happen. I’ve had it before guys have gotten sick in the afternoon and you’re jumping in and playing a game that you didn’t think you were playing in at 3:30 p.m. It’s just making sure you’re mentally with it all the time.”
The Bruins are used to missing pieces from their lineup this postseason, so having been through that experience numerous times will help with the potential loss of Chara.
“I think our guys are good that way knowing that the team will pull together,” said Cassidy. “It’s just tough when you lose your captain. He is your captain and he plays some valuable minutes in this particular series. Against a heavier team, that’s where you miss the actual what he brings to the table.
“But in terms of the mentality, I think this team will be OK. And we don’t know Zee if he misses one game, if he wouldn’t be available for the next one if that’s the case, either. We don’t really know right now. There’s a little bit of that hope factor for us as well.”
Game 5 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday (stream here).