WILMINGTON, MA - Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara will be missing the team's final two games prior to the Olympic break, as he has been given the honor of carrying Slovakia's flag in the Opening Ceremonies this Friday, February 7 in Sochi, Russia.
It's an honor not lost on Chara, or Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien.
"When you look at what Zee has done for this club, I think it's an easy decision to make, because you're carrying your country's flag at the Olympics," Julien said back on January 16, when the announcement was made.
"And even if he misses a game and maybe two, I think that's the least we can do for a guy who's given us so much since he's been here."
After suiting up versus the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, Chara will then be absent for the Bruins' games against the Blues in St. Louis on Thursday, and then against the Ottawa Senators in Boston on Saturday.
"This is a unique situation, and as an organization, we've chosen to take the direction of supporting him and that's the way it is, and we'll make due," Julien said following the team's practice on Monday at Ristuccia Arena.
With that absence on the horizon, the Bruins recalled defenseman David Warsofsky from the Providence Bruins on Monday to join the team for practice.
"Providence left for St. John's today so they're gone for the week, so it was important to have him with us here and gives him a chance to practice with us for a little bit before Zee leaves," said Julien.
"I think we were all wondering what was going to happen with that situation, so luckily I got the call, and I'm just looking to make the most of it," Warsofsky said following the skate.
This marks the blueliner's third recall to Boston. He made his NHL debut on December 19 in Buffalo and has skated in four games for the Black & Gold.
The Marshfield, MA native last got the call against the Senators in Ottawa on December 28, traveling that afternoon to suit up in the Spoked-B, with both Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara sidelined by injuries. He scored his first NHL goal that night.
Being in his third full season with the organization, Warsofsky knows the expectations, and feels comfortable around the team, but this recall is easily less nerve-racking than the previous two.
"I think when I first got called up, all of the focus is on your first NHL game, so you kind of get those nerves out of the way," he said. "And just - it's another hockey game - I've played thousands of them in my life, and just do what I can do."
Warsofsky has skated in 42 games for Providence so far this season, registering three goals and 23 assists for 26 points. His assists total is tied for first on the squad, and his plus-12 rating is tied for second.
Callups will often say that even one NHL game of experience adds more confidence to their game. Coaches see it, too.
"I think anytime you have a player who plays an X amount of games, the more he plays, the better he feels, the more confidence he gets along the way," said Julien.
"I just felt that the last few games he played with us, he seemed to get better and better and right now, we're in need of a left defenseman, and when we were in a need of a right one, it was [Zach] Trotman, so that's how we've kind of determined guys coming up."
"But certainly was real happy with the way he played, especially his last game in Ottawa, he seemed to play with a lot of confidence, carried the puck well, made good plays and obviously scored that goal. Just his whole game was good, and moved the puck well."
The Bruins' dynamic on the back end changes without 'Big Zee' in the lineup, just even looking at the pure size and physicality the Captain brings. But if every Bruins plays his role, the team should be able to pull through for two games.
"We've still got to play. It's no different than an injury; we've still got to win games and we've still got to play well," said Julien. "And every time we play a good team game, it doesn't matter who's been out; we've managed to win some games."
"It's all about teamwork."
The game in Ottawa on December 28 is the only game Chara has missed thus far this season. Being without him for two more games, Julien knows whoever is in the lineup is capable of doing the job - even if they do have much less experience the Captain's 1,000-plus games.
"I think we've done a lot of that already, without [Dennis] Seidenberg, and without [Adam] McQuaid," said the bench boss, of seeing how the less experienced blueliners like Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski have fared.
"There's been many times we've had four first-year D's in our lineup," Julien took a second to smile, "So I don't think I have to see more than that."
McQuaid Return May Not Return Until After Break
Adam McQuaid was again absent for the Bruins' practice on Monday. The defenseman, sidelined by a leg injury for the past six games, has been working out for just under a week.
In Julien's last update on Saturday, he had said if McQuaid was 100 percent before the Olympic break, he would slot back into the lineup.
It appears that the blueliner will need more time to work his way back.
"He hasn't started skating yet. So, to me, it would be very doubtful that he would play until after the break," Julien said on Monday. "When I checked on him today, they weren't putting him on the ice and he was only going to start skating I think sometime this week. So he's been out too long for me to throw him out there, so I'd be very surprised that you'd see him here."
Monday's Practice Lineup
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