Time and space are a gifted playmaker's best friend.

Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara wants to take those two things away from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin -- two players he called the best in the NHL -- when the Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final begins tonight.

"They are probably the best players in the game. There's no question about that," said Chara, who towered above reporters Friday afternoon in a hallway at the Omni William Penn Hotel.
"Anytime you can take space and time from any player, it's probably more difficult for them to do things. I'm sure we'll try to do that."

Chara shared very little about his particular plan to try to do so, as is usual this time of year, deadpanning with a very straight face: "I don't talk about what the game plan is."
Pressed on which player is more dangerous for a defenseman -- even one of his ilk -- Chara indicated there are differences, but they are negligible.

"It depends. I don't really keep track of stats, but they can be very dangerous both of them," said Chara.
The Bruins' 6-foot-9 defenseman is just one of the key factors in the series, which both teams are more than ready to start.

"It's been a good week but it's time for this series to get going," said Bruins coach Claude Julien.
Chara trails Kris Letang among defensemen in the playoff scoring with two goals, 9 assists.

But it's his size -- and reach -- that makes him among the most imposing defensemen in the NHL.
Just ask Matt Bartkowski, a Mt. Lebanon native who made his playoff debut for the Bruins in Game 5 against Toronto and has had a pretty decent vantage point.

"It's a little different. There's some tall guys. Like 6-4, then you have the giant out there," said Bartkowski turning to nod at Chara just a few steps away. "He takes up a lot of ice."

The Penguins have prepared for a physical game where space is at a premium, as the Bruins' mindset, not just Chara's, is set on playing physical.