New York Islanders defenseman Zdeno Chara against the Florida Panthers in...

New York Islanders defenseman Zdeno Chara against the Florida Panthers in the second period at UBS Arena on April 19, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

WASHINGTON — Former Islander Kyle Okposo approached Zdeno Chara, the past and current Islanders defenseman, as he did his postgame workout on a stationary bicycle in Buffalo, shook his hand and congratulated him on “a heck of a ride.”

Chara, who never wants the subject to be about himself, has given no public hint of his plans past this season. But it’s only logical to surmise these last three Islanders games are quite possibly the last ones for the 45-year-old future Hall of Famer as he completes his 24th NHL season and first back on Long Island since 2001.

The Islanders, who open a home-and-home series with the playoff-bound Capitals on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena, will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2018. But Chara’s love for playing and enthusiasm for being around his teammates has never wavered throughout this roller-coaster season.

In recognition, the Islanders’ chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association on Monday selected Chara as its nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication.

The Islanders did not practice on Monday so the 6-9, 250-pound Chara was unavailable for comment, not that he’d be comfortable making one about his nomination anyway.

But Chara’s public reticence in talking about himself does not mean he’s the shy, retiring type.

Quite the contrary, Chara is a very vocal leader and mentor, particularly to 22-year-old defense partner Noah Dobson, who has set career highs with 12 goals, 35 assists and 77 games and has developed into a top-pair blue-liner.

“Any time you can play alongside a guy that’s played that long and seen a lot of the things in the league as a defenseman, for a young guy like me, you can definitely pick up things,” Dobson said recently. “That’s a big thing with him, he’s always talking. At the start of the year, we weren’t very comfortable with one another yet, with sharing what you saw. Now that we have that comfort level, it’s worked well. He’s always talking and communicating and it’s helped me a lot.”

Chara’s dedication to his craft and perseverance is evident as well as he’s adhered to a strict workout routine and diet that has kept him playing well past when many others have retired. Chara set an NHL record for defensemen this season when he played in his 1,652nd regular-season game (he’s now up to 1,678).

Chara does have 2,085 career penalty minutes, but after many of his 76 career fights he’s patted his opponent and said, "Good job," or just made sure the other player was OK.

The Islanders have had three Masterton winners: Robin Lehner (2019), Mark Fitzpatrick (1992) and Ed Westfall (1977).

Okposo was the Sabres’ nominee and fellow former Islander Andrew Ladd was the Coyotes’ nominee.

Notes & quotes: The Capitals announced Alex Ovechkin, who has 50 goals this season and 780 in his career, sustained an upper-body injury in Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the visiting Maple Leafs and is day-to-day.

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