Coach Claude Julien knows how much captain Zdeno Chara means to the Boston Bruins, but he also believes that the defenseman has earned the right to take part in an important ceremony to represent his country - even if it means Chara has to leave the club.
Chara will play for the final time before the Olympic break as Boston hosts the Vancouver Canucks seeking its sixth victory in seven tries Tuesday night.
The Opening Ceremonies for the Sochi Games will be held Friday, and Chara has been given the honor of carrying Slovakia's flag. Julien gave the veteran his blessing to take part in the event, meaning Chara will miss Thursday's contest at St. Louis and Saturday's home date with Ottawa.
"This is a unique situation, and as an organization, we've chosen to take the direction of supporting him," Julien told the team's official website. "We'll make due."
Chara will be in the lineup for this contest, though, after recording two assists in Saturday's 4-0 win over Edmonton. Carl Soderberg, David Krejci, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug all scored, and Chad Johnson had 22 saves as Tuukka Rask got the afternoon off.
"I can't really remember spending much time in our own end," said defenseman Matt Bartkowski, who had an assist. "That led to offense, and then we managed to get some goals and win. As long as we manage the puck well, we tend to do pretty well."
Johnson and Rask have combined to help Boston (35-16-3) allow 116 non-shootout goals, the fewest in the NHL. Rask, 3-2-1 with a 2.15 goals-against average over his last six starts, likely will be in net against Vancouver.
Julien appreciates having two trustworthy goaltenders to interchange when necessary.
"You go about it the best you can. In those heavy schedules, you need both of them," Julien said. "You've got to show that you have confidence in them too because they feel it. They'll feel whether the team or the coaches have confidence in their goaltenders."
Vancouver doesn't seem to have much confidence in any aspect of its game lately. It has lost four straight overall and seven of eight on the road after falling 2-0 to Detroit on Monday.
The Canucks (27-21-9) lost again despite the returns of coach John Tortorella and forward Henrik Sedin, who each missed the previous six games. Tortorella was suspended for 15 days after trying to enter Calgary's locker room during intermission after a first-period brawl Jan. 18.
Sedin suffered an upper-body injury in that contest. His return did nothing to ignite the offense, though. Neither Henrik nor Daniel Sedin has scored in 16 games, matching the longest stretch that the Sedins have played without either one scoring since 2002.
''We looked like a slow hockey team tonight,'' Tortorella said. ''We're going to keep banging and trying to get better. It worries me. It really worries me.''
Roberto Luongo, 1-3-0 with a 3.27 GAA over his last four starts, will be in net for this contest. Luongo made 39 saves and six different players scored in Vancouver's 6-2 win over Boston on Dec. 14.
Reilly Smith scored both goals for the Bruins, who have dropped both meetings since Boston beat the Canucks in seven games to win the 2011 Stanley Cup.