BRIGHTON -- In a development that was certainly much sooner than originally anticipated, David Backes has returned to the ice just a matter of weeks after having 10 inches of colon removed during surgery for diverticulitis. It remains to be seen how gradual a process it will be for the 33-year-old to actually return to game action given his original timetable for recovery was eight weeks following the early November procedure, but it seems like it might end up being ahead of the two months Backes was initially expected to be sidelined.
For his part, Backes was happy to be back skating with his teammates and pushing his recovering body after feeling pretty sluggish for the first few days following surgery. He confirmed he’d been skating for a couple of days while the team was on the West Coast, but Monday was his first team doing anything post-surgery with the rest of the team.
“It’s good to be back with the guys and to be around the room, and to have seen the kind of resiliency that these guys showed on the road trip. The back half of the road trip was impressive,” said Backes, who has an assist in five games with the Bruins before succumbing to the surgery. “To be on the ice and moving around after sitting around doing nothing for too long where you don’t think you’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels good.
“The doc’s advice is that if it doesn’t hurt then I can keep moving forward and add more of a workload on, so that’s the update for today. It’s still non-contact, but we’ll keep moving along and hopefully I’ll be back doing what I love to do on a regular basis. I haven’t been notified that the timeline has changed at all, so I’m just going to keep putting in the work. The more I seem to do the work the better it is, and I seem to be able to do a little more each day. So those are all positive signs.”
For the Bruins it’s clearly a morale booster to see the big power forward back doing regular hockey activities, and serving notice that he’ll be bringing his size, strength, leadership and physicality back to a B’s team that definitely needs him. Clearly the return of another high-end forward would also immensely help a Bruins team that’s still very undermanned up front, but it would appear there will be some other B’s forwards getting back prior to Backes.
Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner appear poised to return to full practice on Tuesday with a possible return to the lineup not too far beyond that after all three injured forwards took part in Monday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena.
David Krejci broke a tie with 1:04 remaining and the Boston Bruins rallied for three goals in the third period to beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Noel Acciari and Matt Grzelcyk also scored for the Bruins (37-13-8), who have won seven of nine and are one point back of Tampa Bay for first place in the Atlantic Division and overall NHL standings.
Ryan Strome and Jujhar Khaira had the goals for the Oilers (24-31-4), who have lost seven of eight.
The Oilers scored the game's first goal with 1:31 left in the opening period - despite being outshot 13-2 to that point - when Strome beat Boston goalie Anton Khudobin on a 2-on-1 break for his ninth of the season.
The Bruins came close five minutes into the second when David Pastrnak's shot clanged off the post behind Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot, but instead the Oilers extended their lead just more than six minutes later when a knuckler by Khaira beat Khudobin up high.
The shots favored the Bruins 29-14 through 40 minutes.
Boston got on the board 4:37 into the third when Acciari swung a puck in front of the Edmonton net and it bounced off Strome and in to make it 2-1.
The Bruins tied it with eight minutes to play after a flurry in front led to Grzelcyk putting the puck past a diving Talbot.
Boston completed the comeback with just 64 seconds to play in the third, after the Oilers lost control of the puck in their own end. Danton Heinen sent the puck out in front, allowing Krejci to score his 11th of the season.
NOTES: It was the second and final meeting this season between the teams. The Oilers took the first game 4-2 in Boston on Nov. 26. ... Oilers defenseman Kris Russellplayed his 700th NHL game. ... The Bruins acquired D Nick Holden from the New York Rangers for minor league defenseman Rob O'Gara and their third-round pick in this year's draft. Holden was not in Edmonton in time for the game.
Bruins: Saturday at Toronto.
Oilers: Host the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.
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GOLD STAR: Zdeno Chara didn’t factor into the scoring for the Bruins, but the 6-foot-9, 40-year-old captain was massive against the Oilers in his role as a shutdown performer. Chara was locked up with Connor McDavid throughout the 60 minutes of regulation play, and it was that constant attention being paid by Big Zee that helped keep the Edmonton wunderkind under wraps with just a couple of shots on net. Above and beyond the simple, vital defensive shutdown work for the Bruins that goes without saying, Chara set the tone physically as well with team-highs in registered hits (five) and blocked shots (five) in his 22:39 of ice time. He finished a plus-1, wasn’t scored on and instead continued to draw energy and enthusiasm doing his defensive work even though it was the second end of a back-to-back fairly late in the season.
BLACK EYE: Leon Draisaitl had to know that he was in for a battle against the Bruins based on their center strength down the middle, and he clearly came up on the short end of the stick along with his Oilers. Draisaitl finished with no shots on net, a couple of giveaways and not much else going on aside from going 12-for-26 in a face-off performance that wasn’t very good either. Draisaitl is counted on to be a big time player for the Oilers and team with Connor McDavid as a 1-2 punch carrying them on offense when things aren’t going well. That didn’t happen with Edmonton’s German import and the rest of an Oilers group. Once again, they fell short after building up and holding a two-goal lead for most of the game. Things would have been much better for the Oil if Draisaitl could have finished off an offensive play or two on an evening where it was all hands on deck against the Bruins.
TURNING POINT: It was all about Noel Acciari finally breaking through in the third period with his high effort goal, and that stirred everything else into gear as everybody suddenly started believing in the comeback. That turned into three unanswered goals in the third period that led the Bruins to the two points. Acciari motored down the wing, fired a shot at the net and gathered his own rebound behind the net before wrapping it inside the post on the opposite side for his first score in a while since battling injuries over the last few weeks. That bit of fourth line opportunistic offense really started things percolating with the Bruins offense, and led to a couple more goals from a Boston bunch that refused to lose once again.
HONORABLE MENTION: Give it up for David Krejci stepping up in the final minutes and scoring the game-winning goal as he stepped up to finish off a great play that started with both Danton Heinen and David Backes. Krejci finished with a goal in 17:23 of ice time, three shots on net, a registered hit and 8-of-13 face-off wins in a solid night, but he really seemed to flourish when Bruce Cassidy switched him out with Riley Nash for a bit of a third period spark. That’s when Backes and Heinen responded to playing with No. 46, and ultimately teamed up for the game-winner after Nash had set up the game-tying goal with his new linemates in Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Spooner. Take a bow for those line changes in the third period down by a couple of goals, Bruce Cassidy!
BY THE NUMBERS: 142 – the fewest goals allowed in the NHL this season is something proudly carried around this season, and it’s really not even close with Nashville as the next team with 154 goals allowed this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We’ll have to see how quickly he really adapts to our system, and then go from there.” –Bruce Cassidy to reporters in Edmonton, when asking how long it will be for newly traded D-man Nick Holden to get in the lineup for the Bruins.