Bruins

In Year 2, Bruins' Backes wants to be 'a bigger factor in us winning more games'

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In Year 2, Bruins' Backes wants to be 'a bigger factor in us winning more games'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Coming off a season that clearly wasn’t his best in his first year with the Bruins, power forward David Backes, 33, is looking for things to get a little better this season in Boston.

It wasn’t that bad for the 6-foot-3, 221-pounder. He finished with 17 goals and 38 points in 74 games and most nights provided a physical presence, solid leadership and a big body willing to pay the price around the net. Other nights it looked like Backes was a thirty-something NHL player trying to keep pace with a younger, faster league, and didn’t quite have the skating legs he’s going to need to keep up with everybody else.

With that in mind, Backes said he made a conscious decision to change his offseason workouts this summer and go from a football training-type size/strength regimen to something built more around skating and superior conditioning. That alteration, combined with settling into life in Boston off the ice, has Backes enthused that he’s going to improve from last season and push closer to the 20-goal, 50-point player he’s been in the past.

“Coming back here my wife made a lot of friends over the last year, we’re all settled into our house and we’re just living. That’s an awesome feeling to know all of that is checked off the list, and I can just go out and play the game. I can really be more concentrated on what’s going on here, and being a bigger factor in us winning more games. That’s what it’s all about,” said Backes. “My whole summer was totally different. I’d be training more like a football player with heavy weights in previous summers, but this year it was a lot more functional, speed-training with a lot more work done on the ice than previously.

“I think it’s partly because I’m getting older, and partly because the game itself is evolving into a faster, quicker, less chipping it in and grinding it out kind of game. While I still love that part of the game and hopefully it can still be incorporated, you also need to be able to get up and down the ice, win races to the puck and be able to make plays. I tried to incorporate training with that in mind.”

It still remains to be seen whether a sleeker, slightly quicker Backes is going to spend the season on the wing or back at his natural center position. He said he's discussed both options as possibilities with the Bruins, but a lot of it depends on how things develop in training camp with a slew of third-line center candidates including Ryan Spooner, Sean Kuraly and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson among others.  

“There have been a few talks on the phone about what I’m thinking, and about what the coaches are thinking. It’s been good dialogue, but I don’t think we’re going to know what the case is until the puck is dropped on opening night,” said Backes. “That being said, I’m open to trying whatever and they’re open to being flexible with wing or center. It’s kind of like what we had in the playoffs with Kuraly and myself where he’s a younger kid that’s capable of playing center and maybe has a little bit more wheels than I do. But he needs help on face-offs, or there are times in defensive coverage where it’s better for me down low late in the game with a lead.

“Alex Steen and I kind of did something like that in St. Louis for a while. He was a lefty and could take draws on the left-hand side, and I was a righty taking draws on the right side. You always have that advantage on your strong side. So we’ll tinker with that a little bit and see how things play out in training camp. That’s kind of why you have a training camp to get a look at those new kinds of things.”

Is the new training going to allow Backes to somehow discover the fountain of hockey youth?

That’s doubtful given his age, with the 800-plus NHL games of hard-nosed play already on his resume. Backes is understandably going to get slower rather than faster over the course of his B’s career, with some real challenges when the schedule spits out back-to-back games or those stretches where the Bruins play three games in four days.

But there should be some optimism that Backes can still have at least one more quality season for the Bruins before age really begins to creep in over the final few years of his five-year deal with the Black and Gold. This should be one of those quality seasons, particularly when considering how Backes altered his offseason workouts to streamline his big man’s skating and speed game while retaining the size and strength at the heart of his hockey tools.

The really good news is that the toughness, the tenaciousness and the competitiveness in Backes’ game will all continue to be there and set the right kind of example for a young crop of forwards getting ready to complement him up front this season.   

Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid’s leg is broken, will have surgery Monday

Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid’s leg is broken, will have surgery Monday

BRIGHTON, Mass – Another serious injury has hit the Bruins in the first few weeks of the season.

Adam McQuaid’s right leg is broken, he'll have surgery Monday and he’ll miss some significant time after he blocked a shot that knocked him out of the Thursday night victory over the Vancouver Canucks. The rugged, stay-at-home defenseman took multiple pucks of in successive games off his leg in the past two games against the Golden Knights and the Canucks.

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Bruins GM Don Sweeney, in a Bruins statement released after practice Friday, said McQuaid sustained a broken right fibula and is scheduled to have surgery on Monday at Mass. General Hospital. He is expected to miss approximately eight weeks.

It’s a tough blow for McQuaid, 31, after he was able to play 77 games last season before missing the playoffs with an injury and has consistently battled injuries in his career while playing a hard-nosed, fearless brand of hockey.

“Adam [McQuaid] is seeing the doctors as we speak, so there will be an announcement about him,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said earlier Friday at practice. “With Bergie [Patrice Bergeron] it’s a maintenance day where we felt it would be better after 20 minutes of ice to let it rest, and the same with [David] Krejci. Miller is a maintenance day as well. He got whacked, but he should be fine as well. We’ll have a better idea in the morning, but we expect all of the [maintenance players] to play.”

Bergeron, David Krejci and Kevan Miller were all missing from practice on Friday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but it was maintenance days for all as they’re expected to be back in the lineup on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres. 

Tuukka Rask is out indefinitely while in the concussion protocol after his practice collision earlier this week, but the good news is that Bruins goaltender was up and around at the practice facility on Friday rather than at home convalescing in a dark room.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings for the Black and Gold with a few bodies missing from practice:

Marchand-Schaller-Bjork

DeBrusk-White-Pastrnak

Agostino-Nash-Backes

Beleskey-Kuraly-Vatrano

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McAvoy

Postma

 
Khudobin

McIntyre 


 

Bergeron’s return also a boost for Bjork

Bergeron’s return also a boost for Bjork

BOSTON – Clearly, the return of Patrice Bergeron had a positive effect on all things Bruins up and down the lineup, but it might have individually done more for rookie Anders Bjork than anybody else.

The 21-year-old from Wisconsin and Notre Dame had his first breakout game for the Bruins with a couple of goals, three points and a plus-2 rating in a 6-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden on Thursday night.

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It’s no coincidence that Bjork’s rookie breakthrough arrived in his first game lining up at right wing alongside Bergeron and Brad Marchand after the youngster skated with those two forwards pretty exclusively through training camp. Bjork jumped right out with the immediate chemistry when he hopped to the front of the net and smacked home the rebound of a Bergeron shot for the important game-tying score, and both Bjork and the Bruins were off and running.

“He’s an awesome little player, and you can tell he’s really finding his stride right now. You know, he had an awesome game tonight, and [he’s] so good at reading the ice, open areas and where to go,” said Brad Marchand, of his rookie linemate. “It takes a little bit of time to build chemistry, but I think we’re coming along.”

Bjork cashed in his second goal of the first period on the power play after getting a centering pass from David Krejci and then firing under the bar from the slot for his third goal of the season. He had a couple of chances at the hat trick in the first period but missed high and wide with a couple more scoring chances, and instead finished with a career-high four shots on net and seven shot attempts in 12:28 of ice time.

“[Bergeron] obviously brings a lot of skill and passion and he brings a lot of other things that you don’t really realize – in the locker room and on the bench and stuff. So I mean, you can definitely see why he’s one of the best players in the NHL, not just because of what he does on the ice, but in the locker room as well.

“These guys are so easy to read off of. They’re going right away and they’re in the right spot all the time, so it makes it easy for me to get open and receive a puck like I did [on his first goal]. [The two] of them just playing the right way and also with that much skill…it’s pretty deadly.”

The Bruins hope Bjork continues to be a deadly combo for other teams when paired with Bergeron and Marchand now that things are starting to look like they were drawn up in training camp.