Chara’s shadow looms large
WILMINGTON - On Thursday night, the instant Alex Ovechkin’s blade touches the TD Garden ice, he’ll have a 6-foot-9-inch shadow in his face.
There is no secret to the primary bullet point of coach Claude Julien’s game plan. Despite a down year, Ovechkin (38 goals) remains one of the deadliest snipers in the game. Zdeno Chara is the most feared shutdown defenseman in the league.
For those reasons, Ovechkin and Chara will be together as often as salt and pepper.
“The big thing is Chara against Ovechkin,’’ Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Sunday. “Chara takes pride in shutting down Ovechkin, so I think obviously you’re going to see that matchup.’’
Ovechkin appeared in three of the four regular-season meetings. He had zero goals and three assists. In all three games, Ovechkin stared down Chara and Johnny Boychuk. On Thursday, Ovechkin will see plenty of Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, who will be the captain’s postseason partner.
“It’s something that motivates me,’’ Chara said of neutralizing Ovechkin. “It’s something that I enjoy, competing against the best players. Obviously they have a few great players on their team. Sometimes the matchups are hard to get, especially on the road. When you do get them, you want to make the best out of them. Overall, I like to compete. I like to work hard against whoever I’ll end up playing against. They have such skill and are a dangerous team, it won’t be only one guy you have to worry about. There’s a number of guys.’’
Ovechkin will likely skate with Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer. Chara and Seidenberg will receive assistance from Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Tyler Seguin, who could skate most of their shifts against Ovechkin’s line.
The Bruins also must be cautious against second-liners Jason Chimera, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin. The hard-charging Chimera should open up room for Backstrom and Semin, who are just as clever offensively as Ovechkin.
“I think it’s pretty hard to deny that Z is not going to play against their best players,’’ Julien said. “At the same time, I really feel there’s a lot more than just Ovechkin on that team. Let’s not get caught up at looking at one player. Backstrom is back. Semin can score. They’ve got some decent players. Brooks Laich has been a good player for them as well.’’
Boychuk on right track
Boychuk knew how he felt after he sprained his left knee last Tuesday in a 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh: not good. Watching a replay of the incident prompted a similar reaction.
“I saw the replay afterward. It looked pretty bad,’’ Boychuk said. “Thankfully it’s nothing more than a sprain.’’
Despite how ugly the injury appeared, Boychuk could be available for Game 1, just nine days after suffering the sprain. Boychuk, who missed the final two regular-season games, practiced Monday at Ristuccia Arena. Boychuk took regular shifts alongside Andrew Ference, his projected postseason partner.
“I felt good out there,’’ Boychuk said. “Just wanted to get back and see how it feels. It felt pretty good. So we’ll take it day by day.’’
Boychuk wore a brace during the session. Before practice, he skated under the watch of strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides. Boychuk skated Sunday for the first time since spraining his knee.
Boychuk has a high tolerance for pain, but the No. 3 defenseman acknowledged some concern immediately after he was injured.
“When you’re on the ice and you’ve never felt that feeling before, you really want to get up,’’ Boychuk said. “Then what if it was bad and I made it worse by getting up? That was the first reaction when I was on the ice, at least.’’
Julien was teammates with Washington coach Dale Hunter in Quebec. For parts of 1984 to 1986, both were on the Nordiques roster. Hunter replaced Bruce Boudreau as the Capitals coach Nov. 28, 2011.
“He’s a no-nonsense guy,’’ Julien said. “He just goes, does his thing, and doesn’t care. He really doesn’t care about anybody or the perception. He does what he thinks is right. That’s how he is. As we all know, Bruce was a little bit more of a guy who wanted to work with the guys, share things, and go that way. They’ve had a different situation.’’
This is the second straight postseason round in which Julien’s counterpart was an ex-teammate. Julien played with Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault for the Salt Lake Golden Eagles from 1981-83.
McQuaid sits out
Adam McQuaid (eye/head) didn’t practice Monday. McQuaid was shut down in the second period of Game No. 81, against Ottawa last Thursday, after not feeling right. He had sat out the three previous games. If McQuaid can’t play in Game 1, Joe Corvo will likely replace the stay-at-home defenseman on the blue line. “His situation is up in the air,’’ Julien said. “It could be resolved soon or later. Right now, we’re just being cautious. He’s day to day. Cautious is the approach we’ve taken.’’ . . . Tuukka Rask (abdomen/groin strain) split time in net with Tim Thomas and Anton Khudobin. Rask looked comfortable during the session and reported no issues after practice. Still no word on whether Rask will be fit for backup duty come Thursday. “It’s not easy,’’ Rask said of practicing restraint. “It’s been a tough five weeks and a couple more days to stay out and not be able to go with the guys. It’s tough not to push too much and be patient.’’.
Jordan Caron was the extra forward on the fourth line. Given the postseason chemistry of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton, Caron will likely be a healthy scratch . . . The Capitals recalled former Bruins goalie Dany Sabourin from Hershey Monday. Sabourin will likely back up 22-year-old Braden Holtby in Game 1. Tomas Vokoun (groin) and Michal Neuvirth (leg) are not expected to be available at the start of the series. “If the other guys aren’t ready to go, he’s playing,’’ Washington general manager George McPhee told reporters when asked how Holtby is preparing for the postseason. “He’s played fine. He can handle it. We’ve had other goalies do it who were the same age or younger.’’