By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Zdeno Chara took a puck to the face early in the second period on Monday night, and the damage was so extensive that the 42-year-old was not able to skate another shift for the rest of the night. He sat on the bench for the third period but, as Bruce Cassidy later revealed, team doctors advised him not to play.
Considering the stakes of the game, and considering Chara’s general threshold for pain, that picture of Chara sitting and spectating does not bode well for his availability on Thursday night in Game 5 or, perhaps, beyond. Cassidy said that he does not know if Chara will be able to play Thursday.
But, if you’re someone who prefers to stay on the sunny side of life, there can be some positivity found. And one only needs to look across the Bruins’ dressing room to find it.
As you may or may not recall, Noel Acciari was hit in the face by a puck on Feb. 26, in a home win over the Sharks. Acciari suffered that facial injury 3:22 into the third period and did not return for the rest of the game. Two days later, with the Bruins hosting the Lightning, Acciari was not expected to be available to play, as he was due to undergo some dental surgery to repair the damage.
However, upon sitting in the dentist’s chair for the work, it was realized that Acciari’s mouth remained too swollen for the procedure to take place. And, Acciari being a hockey player (and a fourth liner, at that), the 27-year-old decided that rather than wait around another day or two for surgery, he wanted to play some hockey.
Sure enough, two nights after taking that puck to the teeth, Acciari was in the lineup, sporting a full face shield. Cassidy sent the fourth line out to start the game. Acciari delivered a hit on Alex Killorn on the opening shift.
Acciari would end up having a much bigger impact than that on the game, as he scored midway through the third period to give Boston a 2-0 lead. It would end up standing as the game-winner.
Acciari would pick up an assist 45 seconds later after he stole a puck from Brayden Point at the Bruins’ defensive blue line. Overall, Acciari had the goal and the assist, with five hits, four shots on net, two takeaways and a blocked shot. For his effort in just 14 minutes of ice time, he earned the game’s First Star.
“I’m OK with pain,” Acciari said after the win.
(Acciari suffered a broken jaw after taking a Providence Bruins teammate’s slapper to the face in 2015. Playing hockey is dangerous.)
Of course, Acciari’s injury could be very different from Chara’s. Most hockey players agree that it would not be possible for Chara to play through the pain of a broken jaw, if that is indeed the injury that kept Chara off the ice on Monday. But Acciari’s ability to shake off a grisly-looking injury and make an impact just two nights later at least presents a positive case study, for anyone who might be seeking one.