BOSTON – It bears repeating that David Backes, 33, was out only 27 days after having 10 inches of his colon removed in an early November surgery for diverticulitis and returned with a vengeance in the Bruins' 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.
In total, Backes missed just 12 games after the significant surgery and beat his recovery timetable by about a month following a procedure not usually undergone by professional athletes.
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Even better news: Backes said after the game that he felt even better than he thought he would while racking up 18:58 of ice time, throwing five hits and diving on the ice to break up plays in an energetic return to the lineup.
“I think I felt better than I expected to feel...four weeks off, you know, 20-something games into the season, everyone is hitting their stride and trying to catch up from 10 days sitting around, not doing anything is a bit of a challenge,” said Backes. “That’s a credit to the training staff and strength staff here. Those skates where you’re alone [are important] and in the practices you’re getting some work done so you can seamlessly transition into the game.
“As I was given permission to do things, I was reporting honestly about how my body was responding and the surgeon and the doctors were honest about letting me progress at a rate that I was comfortable with. There was always a caveat – if it hurts don’t do it, stop and we’ll re-group or maybe take a little more time to heal. I think the benefit [for Backes] might be that the surgery is normally done on older people that are maybe not in great shape. I might’ve been able to beat the norm a little bit that way.”
Either way, it’s dedication to the team and toughness shown in returning so quickly that are not insignificant things coming from a veteran leader on a hockey team. It sets the bar for expectations across the roster and gives the Bruins back their big-bodied power forward who can do a lot of different things on the ice.
“I liked [David] Backes. He was physical; you could tell there was a little rust, which we expected, but just having his presence out there,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We were happy to have [injured players Backes, Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner] back in the lineup. These are good players in this league.”
Backes didn’t factor into the scoring but did finish with the five hits, seven shot attempts and the kind of toughness displayed that will make a lasting impression on his teammates. As with many things when it comes to Backes, the value of him being in the lineup goes way beyond what simply shows up in the box score.