By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — When the NHL decided to create a schedule this season that pitted teams against new divisional rivals eight times apiece, it was expected that some animosity would build very quickly. Things have indeed played out that way, to the point where a 44-year-old defenseman is feeling inspired to drop the gloves in the waning seconds of a game that his team is losing by four goals.

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That was what Zdeno Chara did on Thursday night, deciding to square up with Matt Martin at the end of the Islanders’ 8-4 victory over the Capitals.

It wasn’t necessarily the best fight in the history of the sport in terms of punches being landed, but the fact that Chara is still ready, willing and able to throw down against a player in his prime is still a fairly noteworthy matter. Chara’s ridiculous strength and balance to haul down the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Martin is no joke, either.

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Chara debuted in the NHL way back in 1997, when Martin was 8 years old. Back then, neither player probably was planning for this fight to commence in 2021. But hockey’s a funny sport like that.

Chara is in his first season with Washington after captaining the Bruins from 2006-20. He’s no part-time player, either. He’s played in all 36 of Washington’s games, averaging 18:42 of ice time per night. He has two goals and seven assists along with a plus-12 rating, and he’s earned his coaching staff’s trust as a defensive rock, as he’s started 63.9 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone. (Up in Boston, Kevan Miller — who was prioritized on day one of free agency, despite coming off major knee troubles — remains out indefinitely. Bruins GM Don Sweeney’s decision to essentially show Chara the door due to lack of guaranteed playing time seems a bit suspect. But that’s neither here nor there, now is it?)

The Capitals and Islanders are currently tied atop the East Division with 50 points apiece, though Washington holds the edge by virtue of having played one fewer game. They’ll face each other four more times before the end of the year, including an ultra rare back-to-back-to-back set over six days in late April.

So while Chara’s message on Thursday night didn’t mean a whole lot to that particular game, the uber-veteran was clearly working to establish a tone for those future meetings this season.

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You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.