November 10, 2011

Chara: East-West battles ‘mean a lot to both teams’

By Jesse Connolly

BOSTON – Take a look at the Bruins’ recent string of opponents and you’re bound to spot many a similarity.

The B’s reeled off three-straight victories over the Senators, Maple Leafs and Islanders, dispatching each young, promising squad in convincing fashion. But just because tonight’s visitors to TD Garden bear a striking resemblance to those three clubs doesn’t mean they’re all one in the same.

“I wouldn’t compare it to the Ottawa game or the Toronto game,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said of tonight’s tilt against the Oilers. “This is totally different. Every game is different and this team we don’t see very often. We all know that they’re playing extremely well and they have a lot of talent, speed and skill, so it’s going to be challenging.”

While the B’s will see plenty more of Toronto, Ottawa and New York throughout the season, this’ll be their lone encounter with Edmonton this year. Many often presume that such clashes lack the intensity seen in divisional or even conference rivalries, but Chara believes matchups like tonight bring out the best in both clubs.

“When you don’t see teams very often, you know this game means a lot for both teams,” he said. “They want to prove to each other how good they are. If you’re playing someone more often, you always have the chance to get them back.”

Judging by how well the Oilers have played this season, the Bruins might be the ones waiting a while to exact revenge when the night ends. Edmonton has gone 9-3-2 out of the gate, soaring to first place in the Northwest Division and second overall in the West after finishing dead last in the league a year ago.

“We wouldn’t say we’re surprised, because even last year they showed a lot of positive signs and a lot of skill,” said Chara.

“They were giving teams a lot of trouble, especially the teams trying to make it into the playoffs. They were just burying them. They showed that last year and now they’ve really emphasized everything they need to do with their game.”

With the Oilers clicking on all cylinders, Chara and the Bruins fully realize they’ll have to do their best to keep Edmonton’s speed and wealth of young talent in check if they want to extend their current winning streak to four games.