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Chara looks ready to return

Green light awaits after strong practice

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / December 17, 2011
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ROCKLAND, Ontario - Zdeno Chara participated yesterday in his first full practice since injuring his left knee last Saturday against Columbus.

Chara made it through the entire session at the Canadian Hockey International Academy without limitations. He took part in line rushes, went one-on-one against several teammates, and engaged in down-low battle drills, taking hits and dealing out punishment.

Upon the team’s arrival in Philadelphia last night, the Bruins assigned Steven Kampfer and Jordan Caron to Providence. Kampfer’s assignment, which leaves the Bruins with six defensemen, indicates that Chara will return today.

Provided there are no setbacks before this afternoon’s puck drop at the Wells Fargo Center, Chara looked like a man ready for game action.

“It was good,’’ coach Claude Julien said of Chara’s skate. “He’s feeling better. I talked to him after practice. He looked pretty good. We’re going to give him a chance to get on the plane, fly there, and see how he feels after a good workout. If he feels good, then we have a chance to see him. If not, we’ll be patient with him.’’

Chara has missed the last two games. The Bruins won both matches, but they allowed 40-plus shots in each game.

Chara’s absence is one explanation for the number of chances Los Angeles had Tuesday and Ottawa had Wednesday. But it was also the Bruins’ overall sense of slackness in the neutral zone that led to the amount of rubber Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask had to turn aside. During yesterday’s practice, Julien saw a better level of engagement and execution, which had the Bruins optimistic that they will be more responsible defensively today.

“Certainly we miss him,’’ general manager Peter Chiarelli said of Chara. “But it’s more than that. We’ve let up 40 shots per game. Chances haven’t been that lopsided. Teams tend to shoot a lot from the outside. We’re just a little loose - loose offensively, loose defensively. We’ve got to be a little tighter.’’

The price he pays

Adam McQuaid spent an anxious off day in Ottawa Thursday before learning late in the afternoon that he would not be suspended for his kneeing penalty incurred Wednesday. McQuaid was fined $2,500 for the infraction.

McQuaid took out former junior teammate Nick Foligno with a knee in the second period of the Bruins’ 5-2 win over the Senators. McQuaid was tagged with a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

“It was a long day,’’ McQuaid said. “And a long night, especially watching the third period and putting the team in a tough spot. It was a pretty tough situation. But I’m happy with the way things worked out. There’s no injuries. I’ll pay the fine and move on.’’

Making fast work

In 12 minutes 40 seconds of ice time Wednesday, Daniel Paille brought bang for the puck. Paille scored two third-period goals, including a strike with 1:04 to play that halted any hints of an Ottawa rally.

If Paille, who has five goals, stays healthy (he’s been sidelined with a concussion and a broken nose), he could continue to create scoring chances because of his speed. When he is on the ice, the Bruins have several set plays off defensive-zone draws because the left wing is fast enough to wipe out icing calls.

“How often do you see [Shawn] Thornton flip the puck or them icing it because they know Dan’s going to get it? His speed is certainly that,’’ Julien said. “On the penalty kill, it’s a big plus for us. Now he’s getting some confidence and making things happen. I thought [his second goal] was a great play. It’s a two-on-one. We’ve seen way too often our guys overpassing. He took the shot and he scored. We’re hoping that’s going to set an example for the rest of our team.’’

Flyers hurting

The Flyers, today’s opponent, remain atop the East despite their injuries. “We really need a good challenge to give us a bit of jolt,’’ Julien said. “Today, to me, was probably the best practice I’ve seen our players execute in a while.’’ . . . Tyler Seguin has only two goals in his last 14 games. “He may not be producing as much,’’ Julien said. “But he’s not a liability at the other end. We’re being patient while helping him through this to make him more of a consistent player.’’ . . . Gregory Campbell (fractured foot) will miss his third straight game today.

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

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