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Finger points Chara toward surgery

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / February 3, 2010

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After last night’s 4-1 loss to the Capitals, Zdeno Chara removed the tape that bound his left pinkie to the ring finger. Chara raised his hand and tried to bend the pinkie, but it jutted in toward the rest of his fingers.

A dislocation has left Chara unable to bend the pinkie and close his hand.

“It’s all crooked,’’ said Chara. “I can’t bend it. I can’t straighten it.’’

Chara acknowledged that he will most likely require surgery to fix the injury.

“I don’t have to have long-term issues,’’ Chara said. “I think it’s going to be one of those things where it will have to be straightened out and made normal again.’’

Chara originally suffered the injury Nov. 20 in a 2-1 win over Buffalo. During a collision, the pinkie, which was curled around his stick, was pinned against his leg, which caused the dislocation. Chara has not missed any time but he’s been playing with a splint around the pinkie, which has been taped to his ring finger.

“I’m not making excuses,’’ Chara said. “But it’s hard to play with three fingers holding your stick. Any way I can play the game, I’ll play the game.’’

Hot seats
For now, the Bruins are carrying two extra forwards, which leads to two angry players on game nights.

“I [expletive] hate sitting out,’’ said Shawn Thornton, who was banished to suit and tie Saturday. “Absolutely hate it.’’

In that night’s game against Los Angeles, Marco Sturm (out six games because of an injured leg) and Steve Begin (scratched for five games because of a lower-body injury) were available for action. Their return gave Claude Julien some flexibility in his lineup. He responded by making Thornton and Vladimir Sobotka healthy scratches, an option Julien has rarely had in his coaching toolbox this season.

Thornton, the fourth-line fixture who’d missed only two games earlier because of an undisclosed injury, was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.

The theory goes that a ticked-off player, motivated by his coach’s whip hand, returns to the lineup and makes an immediate impact. Thornton was back in the lineup last night in place of Byron Bitz. Thornton threw two hits in 4:39 of ice time. Sobotka was scratched for the second straight game

The question is whether Julien would be as willing to scratch an underperforming skilled player. Last year, he sat Blake Wheeler for a game to give the rookie a mental breather and allow him to watch from the press box. Two seasons ago, Julien pulled the same move with Milan Lucic, then a first-year pro. In the same year, Julien scratched Dennis Wideman for the season opener.

Michael Ryder, who has two goals in his last 17 games, might benefit from taking a one-game break. Ryder is one of four Bruins to appear in every game this season (Wheeler, Chara, and Mark Recchi are the others).

It’s a tough guy call
As the Bruins resident enforcer, Thornton understands why Wayne Simmonds sought retribution for Mark Stuart’s thunderous hit on Anze Kopitar Saturday night. But Thornton also acknowledged that Stuart threw a clean hit and didn’t necessarily have to be held accountable by dropping the gloves (and breaking his pinkie).

“I know exactly where they’re coming from,’’ said Thornton. “Whether I agree with it or not is another thing. I don’t think you have to answer for clean hits. But when it’s your fifth or sixth defenseman hitting their best player, I guess they look at it that way.

“[George] Parros hit [Marc Savard] last year and it was a pretty clean hit, but I had to address it. It’s part of the game. Whether it should be or not, I’m not sure.’’

Simmonds jumped Stuart an instant after Kopitar was hit. It was unlikely Simmonds had a chance to process whether Stuart’s hit was dirty.

“Sometimes you’re looking the other way or the puck’s behind you, and you just hear the bang and you see your player lying there,’’ Thornton said. “You don’t know whether it was clean or not. You’d rather caution on the side of taking care of it. If it was a clean hit, then oops. If it was dirty, then you’ve taken care of it.’’

Boudreau wary
The Bruins have two visits to Washington in their last four games of the regular season. Before the year, many hockey observers believed the clubs could be battling for first place in the East by the end of the season. However, the Bruins might be out of the playoff race by April 5, the first of the two appearances in Washington. “We don’t have to say anything to focus against the Bruins,’’ said Washington coach Bruce Boudreau. “It was less than a year ago that they were running away with the conference. Best team in the league. Best offense. Best defense. They’ve struggled a little bit. They’ve had injuries. But they’ve got the character in the room that we know that it’s just a matter of time before they break out of this.’’ . . . All year, the Bruins front office and coaching staff have sensed the team has been too comfortable instead of playing a motivated and on-edge brand of hockey. One reason may be the number of new contracts signed. Since this time last year, seven players have reupped for multiyear deals that have already kicked in or will go into effect in 2010-11: Savard, Lucic, Bitz, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, and Matt Hunwick. Aside from Rask, the other six have not performed the way they did last year, be it because of injuries or otherwise. Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli also signed multiyear extensions that will begin next season . . . With Stuart unavailable, Adam McQuaid was in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 16. McQuaid skated 10 shifts for 8:59 of ice time.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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