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Hockey writers realize Zdeno Chara is still one of the best in the game 04.25.11 at 1:27 pm ET
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Those who are not in “the room” may tend to take Zdeno Chara‘s skills for granted. But not the Bruins and certainly not Claude Julien.

On Monday, Chara was named one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy, given annually to the top defenseman in the NHL – the third time in four seasons that the Bruins captain has been so recognized.

Chara, who won the award in 2009, led the league with a plus-33 rating and recorded 44 points, including 14 goals and 30 assists.

“I think, obviously, he’s a well-deserving player,” Julien said. “There are a lot of reasons. I think everyone who knows him here knows he plays a lot of minutes. He also always plays against other team’s top lines. He’s utilized as a shutdown D against the top players on other teams. The stats at the end of the year, I think he’s a plus-30 something, plus-33, and I think that speaks for itself. And double digits in goals, and certainly, offensively, he’s contributed well.

“So, if you’re talking about the Norris and talking about a defenseman that brings a lot, he’s certainly. And I don’t think there are many players in this league who will raise their hand and say they really enjoy playing against him.”

Chara has bigger concerns on his plate right now, like closing out the Canadiens in Game 6 Tuesday night, but he did show sincere appreciation after Monday’s practice at TD Garden for being recognized.

“It’s obviously a big honor and I’m very humbled and very thankful, especially after you consider how many guys had such a great season – breakout seasons.” Chara said. “I’m just very thankful that people who did vote recognize the definition of the Norris Trophy award. And obviously, a big thank you goes to all the people who helped me get there, especially my teammates, all those in the organization, and obviously, my family and fans.

Chara consistently faces the opposing team’s top offensive line, something that makes him one of the most reliable players in black and gold.

“That’s something I take a lot of pride in,” Chara said. “I’m very competitive when it comes to defending the top lines and playing top lines. I know that it’s not an easy job, but I get up to it every night. You can’t think that it’s just you. Yeah, it’s a big motivation for me every night to face such skill and great players.”

Chara – who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for fun – takes as much pride as anyone in his off-season training that year-in, year-out puts him among the finest conditioned athletes in not only hockey but the world. Monday, in the wake of another Norris nomination, he pointed to that training regiment as a big reason for his continued success.

“To me, the first priority is hard work,” Chara said. “I always like to work extremely hard on and off the ice. I’m very competitive, I’m very motivated to play against top lines and the best players every night. I take a lot of pride in that, and I just want to help the team as much as I can to win. That was always my first thing. I always want to put the team in front of egos or individual goals.

“To me, that’s the most important thing, and everything else will fall into place. I know I’m not the extremely skilled defenseman who’s going to put probably 70 points on the board every year. But I know that if I play my game, I give my team a good chance to win hockey games. That’s all I can do.”

Joining Chara as finalists are Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Nashville’s Shea Weber. The three were voted as finalists by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and the names were released Monday by the league.

The winner will be announced June 22 during the 2011 NHL awards ceremony in Las Vegas.

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Michigan native Steven Kampfer ready for a Red Wings-filled weekend 02.11.11 at 1:01 pm ET
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When Steven Kampfer was a child growing up in Ann Arbor, Mich., he couldn’t get enough of the Red Wings. This weekend, he’ll play them twice as an opponent, as the Wings are in town Friday and the B’s will be in Detroit on Sunday.

“I grew up 40 minutes away from there. I always watched them,” Kampfer said Friday. “Bobby Probert was there, [Brendan] Shanahan, [Steve] Yzerman. Back in their heyday, that was the best thing in Detroit.”

Kampfer played at Joe Louis Arena at various stages of his hockey career. As a kid, he stepped onto the historic surface while playing in the Little Caesars (remember those commercials? Pizza pizza, indeed).

“Growing up playing in that rink, we played at the Joe when I was a kid,” Kampfer said. “It was always awesome walking out after practice and seeing them leave the rink.”

Kampfer would also play there in college for both the Great Lakes Invitational and annual contests vs. Michigan State. The 22-year-old is expecting 40 friends and relatives to be in attendence for the game, including his parents, who now live in Florida but are flying back to Michigan so they can return to the arena they once drove their son to for games and practices.

“I grew up playing out of Joe Louis, so they want to go back and see me there,” Kampfer said. “I have my whole family there and a lot of friends and relatives there as well.”

Kampfer wore No. 5 in college, and it isn’t much of a shock as to why.

“I used to watch Nik Lidstrom and try to imitate him as much as I could when I was a kid,” he said. “Now to share the ice with him will be fun tonight, but you want to win a game as well.

“He just makes the game look easy. He’s so calm with the puck. Every time he touches it, he knows what he’s supposed to do. He’s always thinking one step ahead of the game. That’s what you want to do as a defenseman. You want to know what you’re going to do before you get the puck. That’s something he’s always done. It’s pretty special to watch.”

While Kampfer has embraced the Bruins, he can only hope those he once went to Wings games with have done the same. He’ll find out whether or not that’s the case in short order.

“Playing the Wings, I think it will be fun [for them]. I think tonight will be kind of a stepping stone. We’ll see peoples’ true colors, if they’re really Bruins fans or still Wings fans.”

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