Sunday, Nov. 13: McDavid second-best already?

Sunday, Nov. 13: McDavid second-best already?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while I’m “On to Thanksgiving.”

*Don Cherry thinks that Connor McDavid is already the second-best hockey player in the world, and waxes poetic about him during Coach’s Corner.

*The Tampa Bay Lightning hope that all of their road games in the first half of the season are going to have a late season payoff.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma looking for more out of Evander Kane after his return from injury.

*Speaking of teams that need more from players, the Colorado Avalanche need a whole lot more from struggling goalie Semyon Varlamov.

*Eric Lindros took the road less traveled to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and it’s made all the difference for him.

*Loui Eriksson and the Vancouver Canucks are off “to a sour start” in their six year relationship after signing a big money, long term deal with him in free agency.

*Speaking of free agent signings, Milan Lucic is still finding his way a bit with the Edmonton Oilers after his first month with the new team.

*The Hockey News’ Mike Brophy provides seven things that hockey fans could be worried about one month into a new NHL season.

*For something completely different: Garrison Keillor provides a different perspective on the presidential election from his normal vantage point in Minnesota.

Morning Skate: Talkin' B's as in Bruins, Backes, big game

File photo

Morning Skate: Talkin' B's as in Bruins, Backes, big game

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting tired of the Friday news dumps.

*Here’s your Saturday morning hockey show on 98.5 the Sports Hub where yours truly, Billy Jaffe, Ryan Johnston, Bob Beers and Judd Sirott all talked Bruins, Ryan Donato, David Backes’ busy week and Boston’s big game against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight among other things.

*Alex Galchenyuk has been regaining his rhythm, speed and effectiveness for the Montreal Canadiens even as so many other things for them are spinning out of control.

*Braden Holtby has been one of a number of big-time NHL goalies that have struggled at times this season, but he may be getting his mojo back for the Washington Capitals.

*It looks like there’s never been a better time to be an NHL coach as all 31 coaches are going to keep their jobs through the season, the first time that’s happened in more than 50 years.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the details of Ilya Kovalchuk looking to return to the NHL next season after five years over in Russia.

*For something completely different: Love these galleries that Anthony Breznican does at Entertainment Weekly to break down the new Star Wars/Marvel trailers when they finally drop on the Internet. There are such great, little details to them.


Backes gets a shot at centering top line vs. Lightning

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Backes gets a shot at centering top line vs. Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. – The Bruins will switch things up a little bit heading into their important game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night, and that means a new look among their forward group. 

The Bruins are bumping David Backes up to a center spot on the top line in between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak and pushing Riley Nash back to the third-line center spot that he’s manned for most of the season.

Certainly, Nash has done an admirable job of filling in for an injured Patrice Bergeron, but the expectation is that Backes can bring a little more of an offensive jolt, perhaps protect Marchand and Pastrnak a little bit and improve a face-off performance with the Bruins that’s been lacking a little lately. Bruce Cassidy acknowledged that on a very short list of areas where the Lightning can be exploited, their abilities in the face-off dot is one of them.

“It’s something we talked about. It’s an easy switch to go back to. Backes is fresh and Riley has played a lot of hockey lately, so maybe this will be David a little motivated being up there. They’ll probably see the top lines, so we’ll see how David responds to that. It will get David a few more looks offensively as well,” said Cassidy of Backes, who joked he thought he was going to be a healthy scratch when he didn't see his name in its normal third-line spot on the pre-practice whiteboard. “[The face-offs] are also part of it. Without [Patrice] Bergeron and [David] Backes get tossed the other night, we had a tough time.

“Tampa doesn’t have very many weaknesses, but if there’s one you could sort of nitpick at it’s the face-off dot. So it’s somewhere we can start hopefully with the puck a little more than them.”

That’s what can happen when a team is missing Bergeron and his 56.9 percent win rate in the face-off circle. Backes has been good this season winning 53 percent of his draws in limited center duty while Nash is at 47.6 percent and Sean Kuraly is at 46.4 percent, so it’s pretty clear why the Bruins are struggling in the dot recently.

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on an optional morning skate at Amalie Arena: