ST. LOUIS — As Zdeno Chara spoke to the media on Saturday the first time since reportedly suffering a broken jaw in Game 4, it was clear talking didn’t come easy for the 42-year-old defenseman.
Keeping his jaw movement to a minimum, Chara said that he felt fine playing 16:42 in the Game 5 defeat to the St. Louis Blues and all signs point to him playing Sunday night without any issues.
“I think there is no limitations,” said Chara, who did not answer when asked if his jaw is broken. “I’m still able to play.”
The biggest issue with Chara’s injury is maintaining nutrition. He said he’s trying to eat as much as he can given his situation and drink plenty of fluids.
Chara was ruled out for the third period of Game 4 after a Brayden Schenn shot saw the puck ride up his stick and hit him in the mouth, but he still wanted to have a presence on the Bruins’ bench during their 7-2 win. Seeing the injury and then seeing him, bubble cage and all, later on as support meant a lot to his teammates.
“He’s our leader. He’s the toughest guy out there,” said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. “He doesn’t take any games off unless it’s impossible to play. So, it’s an emotional lift to all of us. He’s the backbone of the defense, so it’s a great help for us to have him back there.”
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The Bruins have no room for error in the Cup Final and must win the next two games. Chara knows that, and given the stakes it was no surprise to anyone in their dressing room that he did not miss a game.
“That’s what you do this time of year,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy. “His injury is a little more serious than some. He was medically cleared with some warnings, he made the decision to play. Inspirational for us, good player for us. We knew he wouldn’t be 100%. So we’re happy to have him out there but it just speaks a lot to his character and his role to play.”
With Chara back in the lineup for Game 6, the only question on defense for the Bruins is the health of Matt Grzelcyk, who has been out since Game 2 with a concussion. He shed a non-contact jersey in practice this week, but according to Cassidy he’s not been medically cleared yet to play Sunday night.
Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final will take place Sunday, 8 p.m. ET on NBC (live stream here)
MORE BLUES – BRUINS COVERAGE:
• Bruins’ Chara was more than just brave in Game 5
• Chara, Dunn join jaw-dropping club of playing through pain
• Bruins, Blues in familiar places heading into Game 6
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.