Bergeron 'on track' for return vs. Devils, doesn't think injury will linger

Bergeron 'on track' for return vs. Devils, doesn't think injury will linger

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- If everything goes according to play, Patrice Bergeron will be making his season debut in the home opener at TD Garden against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. The 31-year-old center returned to practice with the team on Wednesday after missing the first three games of the season with a lower body injury, and Claude Julien said afterward that Bergeron “was on track” to play against the Devils barring any last minute setbacks.

“Bergeron, I think, is on track to play tomorrow unless I’m told otherwise today, or comes in on [Thursday] and feels any different,” said Julien. “I think we’re hoping he’s going to be in the lineup. It might be a little different with [Adam] McQuaid. It might be a few more days or so, but I think he’s very close as well.

“We talked about them [Bergeron and Adam McQuaid] getting better all the time, and they were both able to get a full practice in with us. Those are two veteran players that you’re glad to see back with us.”

Even better, Bergeron indicated the injury wasn’t something he expected would linger once he returns to good health centering red-hot wingers on either side of him in Brad Marchand (second in the NHL behind Brent Burns with seven points through three games) and David Pastrnak (team-leading four goals through three games).

“I felt really good on the ice today, and hopefully that stays for the rest of the day today and tomorrow morning. We’ll go from there,” said Bergeron. “It was really hard, and a little frustrating at the same time to not be able to go on the first road trip with the guys, and battle with them early on. It was nice to be back with them on the ice, and I can look forward to the upcoming games.

“I felt good today. We’ll have to talk about it, but I don’t think this is one of those things that’s going to linger for too long. Hopefully it stays like that. The way [the team] has battled, it was really great to see. A lot of young players were getting their feet wet at the same time. I was really pleased with the way we showed up [on the road].”

Now Bergeron will get a chance to add his voice and considerable talent to a Bruins hockey club that deserves plenty of credit for earning four-of-six points in his three-game absence. 

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

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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: