Welcome back: Zdeno Chara

chara_autocardThis is the first in a series of catch-up stories with members of the Boston Bruins as they make their way back to the Boston area for informal, pre-training camp captains’ practices.

Last year was a bit of a transition for Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, as he not only had to contend with being the most vital piece of a team that won the Eastern Conference but also had to adapt to being a father when his first daughter was born in the midst of the Bruins’ postseason run.

Now Chara has to be ready to be the focal point of a team that will be firmly entrenched as the hunted rather than a hunter in 2009-10 and do it while trying to find a serviceable defense partner after the trade of stalwart Aaron Ward.

Offseason tidbit: Chara got to spend tons of time with his new daughter Elliz.

“Being a father is obviously a new experience, but I can’t complain,” he said today.

The world’s No. 1 tennis player Roger Federer admitted he changing diapers, and Chara is no different.

“Anything I can do to help out,” he said.

Position battle: Although he always plays and practices as though he has something to prove, Chara does not have to worry about anyone with Boston challenging his status as the No. 1 D-man. But this year’s training camp will provide a contest to determine who plays next to him, and that will also determine whether he stays on his natural left side or has to move to the right. Newly signed Derek Morris enters camp as the favorite to be Chara’s partner.

Projection: The Norris Trophy winner will still be the Bruins’ top option to shut down opposing snipers and be their power-play quarterback. His offensive numbers might slag without Ward around to be a stay-at-home complement but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be a dominant force. Remember, last season he was coming off shoulder surgery and still was the league’s premier defenseman.

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