Islanders’ Zdeno Chara plays in record 1,652nd regular-season game

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Zdeno Chara skated into history on Thursday night, playing in his 1,652nd regular-season game to set an NHL record for defensemen as the Islanders lost to the Sharks, 4-3, in a shootout at SAP Center.

“You see his work ethic,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “You see how he carries himself. How humble he is. Anything he has to offer, you take up like a sponge. He’s been a tremendous help and asset in our room and it’s one special night for him.”

The 6-9, 250-pound Chara, 44, tied Chris Chelios’ mark of 1,651 games as the Islanders opened this five-game road trip with a 5-2 win in Seattle on Tuesday night. Chara is in his 24th season and his first back with the Islanders, who drafted him in the third round in 1996 and traded him to the Senators in 2001.

“I would like to start to thank Chris Chelios,” Chara said. “It’s such an honor and privilege to be in the same group as many great defensemen. He’s such a high standard for many of us. It’s been very inspiring and a huge motivation and I want to thank him for that. He was a tremendous player.”

The Sharks honored Chara during a stoppage at 6:53 of the first period, including a video message from former Shark Patrick Marleau, who set the NHL record for games played in 2021. The taciturn Chara waved to concede the crowd’s applause.

Said Chara, “It’s a classy act. Patty, the same thing. Thank you so much for the video. I enjoyed it for a little bit.”

The Stars’ Ryan Suter, 37, is second to Chara among active defensemen as he played in his 1,249th game on Thursday.

The Russian connection

Goalies Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov are from Russia, and coach Barry Trotz was asked how that country’s invasion of Ukraine could impact his players and his team.

“This is something that’s come up,” Trotz said. “We won’t know and it’s probably not my place to answer that. I do know this: The group is a family. One of the things I’ve learned in this business is there’s really not a lot of politically based things that happen. I don’t think it will have any impact on the group. Individually? I really can’t answer that. The guys from Russia have family back in Russia. There are probably some players that have some family in the Ukrainian part of it. I’m really not at liberty to speak for them.”

Neither Sorokin nor Varlamov was made obtainable to the media.

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