BOSTON - When the Bruins went on their road trip, there was a question Head Coach Claude Julien kept being asked by the opposing coaches.
It involved a 6-foot-9 defenseman.
"Well," Julien began with a smile. "When you go out West and everybody's asking you if he's on the trip, it tells you a lot about the teams out West and what they think of him."
Zdeno Chara has missed the Bruins' past 19 games with the knee injury he suffered on October 23. He could be returning to game action this Thursday, when the Bruins host the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden.
"I think it's like that across the League. There were a lot of teams happy to plays us with him out of our lineup, no doubt, and there's going to be a lot of teams sad to see him back in our lineup," Julien said following the team's practice on Tuesday at TD Garden, in which Chara joined them for the first time since his injury.
"So we're excited to have him back soon, and hopefully that happens Thursday."
Julien is optimistic about Chara's return, though he hasn't received word yet from the trainers that he'll be cleared to play.
"I'm just suspecting," said Julien. "I know Zee's really excited about wanting to play Thursday. I suspect that if he's excited, that there's probably going to be - hopefully - the medical staff clearing him to play, so I haven't been told that yet, but we're hoping that's the case."
BOSTON - Zdeno Chara joined the Bruins for practice on Tuesday morning for the first time since sustaining his knee injury on October 23 against the Islanders.
David Krejci also practiced with the team at TD Garden. It marked his first practice since November 20.
Both had been skating apart from the group with Strength and Conditioning Coach John Whitesides. They stayed back to continue their rehab while the Bruins went away on their four-game road trip out West.
David Warsofsky, who has been out since suffering a groin injury on November 6, was also on the ice for practice. He had practiced once with the team before they headed on the road, only taking light contact during that skate.
Chara (PCL tear, knee) has missed the past 19 games. Krejci (undisclosed) has missed eight straight, and 14 of the past 16. Warsofsky (groin) has also been sidelined for the past 13 games.
They have all been cleared for practice, but have not been cleared for game action yet.
Adam McQuaid's lead-by-example persona, especially for the young defensemen, is also missed.
The Bruins have gone 7-6-1 in games without both Chara and Krejci. They were 8-3-1 in November before a 1-3-0 start to December.
Chara (knee) has missed the past 19 games. Krejci (undisclosed) has missed eight straight, and 14 of the past 16. McQuaid (broken thumb) has missed eight straight. David Warsofsky (groin) has also been sidelined for the past 13 games.
Both Chara and Krejci were back practicing with the team on Tuesday morning. They stayed back in Boston last week to continue their respective recoveries, while the Bruins traveled West.
BostonBruins.com - The Bruins were off on Monday, with a four-day layoff before their next game on Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden.
General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced the assignment of David Pastrnak back with Providence Monday morning. Pastrnak flew back with the team on Sunday from Arizona after their four-game road trip out West.
The P-Bruins were headed to St. Johns, Newfoundland in advance of a back-to-back against the IceCaps on December 9 and 10 before returning home.
Pastrnak's presence should give them a boost. They lost six straight before snapping the skid with a 3-2 win over Portland on Sunday.
He was a point-per-game player with Providence, leading the team with 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists) through 17 games, along with a plus-12 rating.
Hit with their own injuries this season, the P-Bruins are currently without forwards Ryan Spooner, Brian Ferlin, Bobby Robins, and Ben Sexton has been out since October. On the back end, they remain without Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman and David Warsofsky, all still recalled to Boston.
Pastrnak was up with Boston for two weeks after being recalled on November 24 and suiting up in his first career NHL game that night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
GLENDALE, Ariz. - There was a sense of relief in the Bruins' visiting team locker room on Saturday night in Arizona.
Finally getting a win on an 0-3 road trip can do that. Earning a 5-2 win over the Coyotes with a 60-minute effort makes it even better, especially after finally putting their words into action.
"Sometimes you come in and you say all these things, and you want to put it on the ice and sometimes it just doesn't work," said Brad Marchand, who scored twice in the much-needed victory. "So it was great that the guys took it upon themselves to go out and play the way we had to.
"You could see it in our game, we played a really good game, a full 60 minutes, so you've got to give the guys credit, they stepped up and answered the bell."
That response should have been expected with this team, but it was still promising for Head Coach Claude Julien to see it show.
"We had lost three in a row, so I thought that there were two desperate teams here, and somebody had to be hungrier than the other," said Julien. "And it was nice to see that it was us."
"We didn't want to go back home having not won a game here, and I thought we played well enough on this trip that somewhere along the way, we should come out with a win."
GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Bruins' pride took a hit the last time they were on the ice.
"It is a shot - to your pride and your character," Chris Kelly said after having a day to digest the 7-4 loss in San Jose. "We have a lot of guys with a lot of character and a lot of pride in this room, and it definitely took a shot."
That nature of that defeat and three straight losses on a road trip can do that.
The Black and Gold have a chance to redeem themselves in Game No. 28, when they cap off the trip against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night (8:00 p.m. ET/6:00 local).
"It's about doing our jobs, doing it right - don’t be the weak link," said Head Coach Claude Julien, of the message to his club. "And not just as players, sometimes as lines. It hasn’t been good enough."
"A proud team gets tired of losing, and when it gets tired of losing, it does something about it. So this is, again, what we need to show tonight."
The Bruins haven't lost four straight games since April 2013. Earlier on the trip, the Bruins weren't satisfied with results but could still keep their heads up with the effort put in. It's gone past that point now.
"Desperation has to kick in," Brad Marchand said Saturday morning. "It's the last game of the road trip and teams are moving ahead of us in the standings, and we don't want to be pushed out of a playoff spot, and we have to realize all those things are at stake here right now."
With a 14-12-1 record (29 points), the Bruins are fifth in the Atlantic Division. They are barely in a playoff position, hanging on to the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with Toronto (29 points, two games in hand) just above them and Florida (27 points, three games in hand) just behind.
Game time is set for 8:00 p.m. ET (6:00 local time) at the Gila River Arena.
"Nothing more than I think Joe Morrow deserves to be in there and I think Griff deserves to be in there," Head Coach Claude Julien said Saturday morning. "So, a young David Pastrnak — it’s not a reason for his play, more than I think it’s time for Griff to get in there, and you can’t have too many of those young players in. You need to win games with some experience as well, so you've got to balance your lineup out there."
"Bart, we expect a little bit more out of him. He plays well; some other games, you know, the same issues [that] keep coming up. So until he gets some consistency, he’s going to be inconsistent in our lineup."
GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Bruins have one game remaining on their road trip out West that saw them go 0-for-3 through California.
Saturday night's tilt against the Coyotes serves up a chance to bring an ounce of confidence back home to Boston to refocus before hosting the Chicago Blackhawks on December 11.
In preparation, the Bruins hit the ice on Friday afternoon at Gila River Arena for a lengthy practice to grind away a 7-4 loss in San Jose on Thursday night that saw them allow the most goals since January 2013.
Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien hadn't yet fully digested the loss.
"Now that you've had time to digest the game last night…" a reporter began, before the bench boss interjected with a slight smile and a head nod, "I'm not sure if I did, but it's a start."
The disappointment from Thursday's effort is magnified when looking at the Bruins' first two games of the trip against Anaheim and Los Angeles, in which they didn't get rewarded for their hard work.
To be heading in the right direction, and gain a 2-0 lead in San Jose, only to throw it all away defensively for the rest of the night was a massive hit to the Bruins' pride.
SAN JOSE - Scoring goals was at the top of the Bruins' list heading into Thursday night.
Letting in seven goals at the other end was not.
With a 7-4 loss to the Sharks at the SAP Center, Boston fell to 0-3 on its road trip out West, with just one game remaining against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.
"We scored some goals, but the rest of our game wasn't very good," Head Coach Claude Julien said of his team that allowed a season-high seven goals.
The last time the Bruins let in seven goals came back on January 31, 2013 in Buffalo. They had let in six on two occasions this season.
Boston had a promising start in San Jose, after stringing together solid efforts in Anaheim and Los Angeles without getting rewarded.
SAN JOSE - The Bruins can still salvage their four-game road trip, and avoid being swept on the California swing.
A win on Thursday night in San Jose, followed up by another two points in Arizona would put them at .500 on the road trip after back-to-back losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles.
"That means that we played four pretty good hockey games out here and going home, that's a lot to build on," Chris Kelly said Thursday morning following the Bruins' pregame skate at the SAP Center.
"Obviously we don't want to come out here and be 0-2 to start this trip," Kelly said. "But I think we played well, I think the effort was there in the first two games and if that effort continues, things are going to turn around and we're going to start winning more hockey games."
"I think we just need to realize that although we didn't win, that's the effort we need to put worth. You've just got to stay positive and continue working at the process."
The alternate captain is inherently one of the most positive voices in the locker room.
It could be tough to to deliver the same "stick with it" message over and over again. It's even tougher for those outside the team to hear over and over again, when the results are what matter most.