Bruins

Morning Skate: Bruins cap situation isn't messy at all

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Morning Skate: Bruins cap situation isn't messy at all

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while going through withdrawals with no Game of Thrones on Sundays anymore. 
 
-- I love PHT writer James O’Brien like the NBC Sports brother that he is to all of us over here at CSN New England, but I think there’s some serious sportswriting hyperbole being used when he talks about the Bruins with a “messy” salary cap situation. That hasn’t been the case since the Bruins swallowed hard once Don Sweeney took over and traded away Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton as high-priced items they weren’t going to pay anymore. Sure they have a few contracts -- like David Krejci, David Backes and Matt Beleskey -- that wouldn’t be considered very good at all under any circumstances, but they also have cap space this season (roughly $3 million) along with almost zero big contract decisions to make for at least a couple of years. It’s literally been years since they needed to make a trade due to salary cap reasons. They also have an armada of young, cheap and talented prospects coming up through the system right now or already on the team, like Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy and Anders Bjork, who are going to be cheap labor for the foreseeable future. Could their cap situation be better? Sure. Anybody’s could. But they got Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak signed to under-market deals and they face no imminent cap issues with the cap ceiling expected to still go up by a few million each season. So as far as I can see, Boston’s cap situation is actually a pretty good one as compared to many other teams around the league.  
 
-- Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov aim to pick up where they left off this season for the Tampa Bay Lightning after the Stamkos injury hurt them last season. 
 
-- It looks like former Merrimack standout Stephane Da Costa is going to have to put the NHL return on hold after suffering an injury while reportedly talking to the Montreal Canadiens about a contract. 
 
-- A number of prominent players, like JVR, Evander Kane and others, are entering the final season on their contracts, and could be at play in trade talks moving forward this year
 
-- Here are a few things that the NHL can learn after its first foray into China, where the league hopes to really make a dent in a massive, growing market. 
 
-- Interesting piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Joe Smith on Tampa Bay’s evacuation for the Lightning organization during Hurricane Irma, and the menagerie of animals that it included.  

-- For something completely different: This is truly a sad state of affairs when artists like U2 and Ed Sheeran have to cancel concerts in St. Louis due to safety concerns for themselves and their fans.

Backes hoping return from diverticulitis is 'on the upswing'

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Backes hoping return from diverticulitis is 'on the upswing'

BRIGHTON, Mass – While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the Bruins medical staff before becoming a possibility, the Bruins aren’t ruling out a return from David Backes for Thursday night’s game vs. the Vancouver Canucks.

Both Backes and Patrice Bergeron returned to Bruins practice with the rest of their teammates on Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but it was only the 33-year-old Backes that practiced fully without any limitations.

“He skated a little while we were away and a full practice today, so we’ll consult with the medical staff going forward with his plan,” said B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Potentially he could be an option for Thursday, and I think that should sort itself out in the next couple of days. We’re no different than anybody else, right? We’d like to have our full complement, and some of the guys we’re missing are glue guys that could really add that element to some of the kinds of games that got away from us.”

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After the team practice, Backes said that he’s been skating for the last four days and that he’s lost about 10 pounds over the last couple of weeks while adjusting to the medication and dietary treatments for diverticulitis. It wasn’t a complete shock to Backes given some of his family medical history, but he wasn’t expecting anything like that to hit him in the prime of his professional athletic career at just 34 years old.

“I have a family history of it, but this is kind of unfortunate timing and unfortunate circumstances. Hopefully I take care of this, get it behind me and not have to ever think about it again,” said Backes. “The first couple of days it was tough to just stand up straight or do anything, and then you’re on a ‘no exercise’ regimen for six or seven days. So progress…certainly. A return…we’ll see. Long-term prognosis we’ll have to discuss with the really smart guys.

“You don’t have much appetite, to deal with pain you take a painkiller and then that slows down digestion and just makes it even worse. So you’re stuck there…and it really drains your energy. I was on a liquid diet there for a few days and lost about 10 pounds. I don’t suggest that as a crash diet for anybody.”

He’s come a long way from being stuck in a Mass General hospital bed during Bruins opening night against the Nashville Predators, and Backes is hoping he’ll be all the way back to playing sooner rather than later. The Bruins right winger skated in a third line spot with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller on Tuesday, and said he’s actually even consulted a bit with former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light, who battled his own stomach issues with Crohn’s Disease during his NFL career.

“I was like a kid in a candy store before practice. You have that carrot of Game 1 dangled in front of you and then taken away, and finally you’re back with the guys on the ice after they’ve been gone a week. Knowing what the results have been you want to interject a little energy out there while knowing that we’ve got 77 games left to establish ourselves, and find our game,” said Backes. “I felt good out there and it was nice to be back on the ice. I was smiling most of the day knowing that I’ll hopefully be playing some ice hockey in the future.

“We’re working to get that strength back and to return me to a productive member of this hockey team, which is going to be on the upswing here shortly. It’s not just due to me, but because guys are putting work in as a group. I’m trying to be as educated about it as I can, so I can be available as often as possible and as productive as possible when I am available.”

There are medical hurdles that need to be traversed by Backes before he can return, but once it becomes a matter of toughness and grit then he’ll be suiting up again for the Black and Gold, and that moment might be coming soon.

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.

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That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.