BOSTON - The Boston Bruins will spend the next four to six weeks trying to fill the hole left by an injury to the tallest player in NHL history.
Defenceman Zdeno Chara tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee but will not need surgery, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. The team called up two minor-league defencemen on Friday to replace the 6-foot-9 Slovakian who was the 2009 Norris Trophy winner and plays more minutes than any other Bruins skater.
"It's obviously a blow. He's one of the premier defencemen in the league," Chiarelli said. "But I'd rather have it four to six weeks than four to six months."
Chara left Thursday night's game against the Islanders in the first period, one shift after a collision with New York forward John Tavares. He did not appear injured at the time, but his teammates knew it was serious when one of the toughest players on the team left the bench.
"When he's out, he's out," goalie Tuukka Rask said after Friday's practice. "He's played through a lot of stuff."
A third-round pick of the Islanders in 1996, Chara came to Boston as a free agent a decade later after establishing himself as one of the NHL's best players. As the Bruins' No. 1 defencemen, he uses his long reach to stop opposing attacks — usually matched up against the other team's top forward.
Chara led the Bruins to the NHL title in 2011 — with Chara, as the team's captain, receiving the Stanley Cup — and back to the finals two years later. Last season, the team won the Presidents' Trophy for the most regular-season points before losing in the second round to the Montreal Canadiens.
"He's just such a dominant player," fellow defenceman Dennis Seidenberg said. "He's a real treat to have on your team. You get spoiled on the ice, and you don't really appreciate it until he's gone."
Already without defenceman Kevan Miller, the Bruins lost 3-2 on Thursday night to fall below .500 for the season and into a four-way tie for fifth place in the NHL's Eastern Conference. But coach Claude Julien pointed to the third period of the game, in which the Bruins dominated New York, as proof that the team can manage without Chara.
"If we've become that bad of a team because of one player, we weren't that good of a team," he said Friday. "I'd like to think we're better than that."
The team recalled defencemen Joe Morrow and Zach Trotman from Providence of the American Hockey League on Friday. Morrow has one goal and one assists in five AHL games this season. Trotman played two games in Boston last season and has one assist with Providence this year.
"It will take everyone to fill that void," forward Chris Kelly said. "It's not just the defence that needs to defend. It's five men working together in all three zones."