ARLINGTON, V.A. — When asked about Zdeno Chara, Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom can’t help but smile.
The 44-year-old blueliner was only in D.C. for six months after signing a one-year deal with the Capitals for the shortened 2020-21 campaign, but he left behind quite an impact. And with Chara set to return to Capital One Arena for the first time since last year as Washington hosts the New York Islanders on Tuesday, Backstrom had a lot of positives to share about his former teammate.
“The way he carried himself, it’s very professional… great guy in the locker room,” Backstrom said of No. 33. “A lot of guys looked up to him.”
Washington signed Chara to a one-year deal before the season, looking to add another leader to the dressing room who can also play sound defense.
“He’s here to help us, not just for ‘OK, we signed Chara. He’s gonna come here, he’s gonna work hard, he’s gonna bring some energy, he’s gonna bring some new experience to our team and I think it’s gonna help us,” Ovechkin had said at the start of the team’s 2021 training camp.
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Through 55 games with the Capitals in 2020-21, Chara dished two goals and eight assists, along with 88 hits and 67 blocks while averaging 18:19 minutes per game. The former Bruins captain also wore an “A” with Washington and grew close to Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson and more.
“He was a leader in Boston, came here, was a leader right away,” Backstrom added. “A lot of guys looked up to him. He’s one of those guys that’s been in the league for so long. Can’t say good enough things about him.”
Chara will be on the other side of the bench once again on Tuesday as both teams clash in a Metropolitan Division showdown. This will be the second time that Chara will meet with his former club this season — and Backstrom knows that when it comes to hard hits and fights, he’ll be staying out of the way.
“He’s not scared of dropping those gloves. I’ll tell you what, I’m staying out of that,” he added with a laugh.