BOSTON — Just when the Bruins were playing some of their best defense of the season, they lose their No. 1 defenseman to an injury.
Captain Zdeno Chara left with an unspecified injury after taking one shift in the second period during the Bruins’ 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.
He did not join the Bruins on Wednesday for their flight to Ottawa to face the Senators on Thursday, and Claude Julien said the 2009 Norris Trophy winner was doubtful for Calgary on Friday.
Chara has one goal and five assists in 19 games this season. His team-high 22:41 of ice time per game will also be difficult to replace.
“We just lost our best defender and teams hate playing against him, and that’s the kind of impact he’s got,” Julien said. “Now there’s no individual that’s going to step up and do his job more than we’re going to have to do it as a group.”
The Bruins received some positive news Wednesday, as defenseman Kevan Miller, who has missed the start of the season after fracturing his left hand, and forward David Pastrnak, who leads the Bruins with 10 goals, were cleared to play against Ottawa. Pastrnak had missed three games with an undisclosed injury.
Both Miller and Pastrnak practiced on Wednesday.
The Bruins have won four of their past six and eight of their past 12 games. Prior to their loss to the Blues, the Bruins had allowed two or fewer goals in five straight games, including four wins.
Having Chara out of the lineup will put the onus not just on the defensemen, but the rest of the team to keep the opposition off the scoreboard.
“I think everybody together as a group has really come together and embraced our identity and the style of play that we want to emphasize and I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve had success,” defenseman John-Michael Liles said.
“Losing ‘Z’ is a big loss, but I think if we continue to play the style that we’ve really focused on the last little while, I think we can continue to have success.”
When the Bruins were without Chara because of a torn knee ligament during the 2014-15 season, they went 11-7-1.
This time they will rely upon veterans such as Liles, Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid. Nineteen-year-old Brandon Carlo has thrived as Chara’s regular defense partner this season, and the rookie will have to figure out how to play without the captain.
Carlo has two goals and two assists in 19 games and has averaged just 20 fewer seconds per game than Chara.
“He’s a pretty good player anyway, and he can still play in this league without Zdeno,” Julien said.
“When you’re missing your No. 1 defenseman, when you’re playing with him, there’s no doubt it affects you. But he’s still a good enough player to overcome that.”