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Emotional night for Backes as he returns to St. Louis with Bruins

Emotional night for Backes as he returns to St. Louis with Bruins

ST. LOUIS -- David Backes knows it’s going to be an emotion-filled moment when he takes the ice tonight at the Scottrade Center for the first time since leaving the St. Louis Blues organization, which he bled, sweated and played for over the last 10 years.

He played 727 games in St. Louis, eventually becoming captain and helping the team advance to the Western Conference finals last year. But last July 1 he signed as a free agent with the Bruins, and has become the same kind of emotional and physical leader he was for the Blues.

Still, this return to his adopted home of St. Louis has been on his mind for a while.

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“I’m going to try to control myself and my emotions, and live in the moment while enjoying every second of it,” said Backes, who has 11 goals and 21 points in 35 games this season with the Bruins. “There are a few times in your career when you get special nights, and tonight is going to be a special night for me, no question, coming back to a place where I spent 10 years. I’ve got a lot of great memories here. My wife and daughter flew in for the game, a lot of friends will be sitting with them and I just want to enjoy every second of it, be in the moment, not look past it and not take anything for granted.

“At the end of the day I’m going to do everything I can to help my team come out of here with two points against a team that I know is very tough, and has already beaten us once this year. But in the midst of that there will be some special moments throughout, and I want to enjoy every second of it. It starts with morning skate and some of the familiar faces around the rink.”

Backes has already crossed paths with his ex-teammates once before, when St. Louis came into TD Garden and defeated the B's, 4-2, on Nov. 22.

"It’s probably stranger for him than it is for us,” said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who succeeded Backes as Blues captain. “We're still here, and we're going on business as usual. Like I said to him yesterday, it just feels like you've been hurt for 40 games now that he's back here. I know for [Backes’ wife] Kelly it's a little bit weird too coming back and seeing everybody, seeing all the friends that they've known for a long time. I think he's adjusting. The way he plays, too, I think he'll go out there and do what he's going to do.

“We know he plays the game pretty honest. He keeps the other team on their heels. He plays the game hard, we know that. Obviously he was the captain here for as long as he was, so you miss that. You miss that emotional side of him being the guy.”

Backes has already shown a high motor and fiery, vocal leadership in just a half-season with the Bruins, and he sets the standard for the rest of the team by playing a physical game and consistently paying the price at the front of the net. The B's are expecting more of what they’ve come to rely on from Backes even as he readies for one of the most emotional games of his career.

“I don’t worry about what he brings to the table” said coach Claude Julien. “I know what he brings to the table every night. I expect him to do that again tonight because he does that on a regular basis. But that’s not denying that this is a big night for him. To come back to the place where he was captain and played for many years, there’s no doubt it’s going to be an emotional night for him. Hopefully we can reward him with a win here.”

So what happens when you put an emotional player in an ultra-emotional moment in his longtime NHL home for the first time? It could be something special.

Bummed about the Patriots? No worries, the Bruins are back

Bummed about the Patriots? No worries, the Bruins are back

Boy, it sure feels like the NHL season can’t come fast enough in a place like Boston right about now.

Hot on the heels of another deflating, depressing  Patriots loss, where it feels like the team is going through the motions in September, the Black and Gold are little more than a week away from opening against the reigning Stanley Cup champs in Washington next Wednesday, Oct. 3.

The Bruins certainly aren’t perfect and will be challenged to surpass the Lightning and Maple Leafs as top dog in the Atlantic Division, but we’re also talking about a young, exciting group with a proven championship core coming off 112 points last season.

This is a Bruins team that’s going to be in the playoffs, it’s a Bruins team that’s got some of the best, most exciting players in the league and it’s a Bruins team that’s going to be fun to watch as it wins a lot of games.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney alluded to the excitement around the B’s when John Tavares chose them as one of his select free-agent suitors over the summer before he chose to sign with Toronto.

“It’s, obviously, a reflection of our current players and a testament to them. I think stylistically, to our coaches, to the organization, to the support from ownership, with this [new practice] facility, overall, it’s a reflection of our entire organization,” said Sweeney. “I’ve said all along, it’s about winning. That’s the mandate that we’re trying to put forward to all of our players, whether it was the development camp guys or the highest-level free agency players that we’re trying to attract and to be a part of what we’re trying to do.”

It sure doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of that optimism abounding in Foxboro right now with a couple of diva players being treated differently than the rest of the team and a whole lot less talent on both sides of the ball than there was a year or two ago.

There won’t be any drama about one of the players threatening to retire if he’s on the verge of being traded and there isn’t any war of egos between the GM, coach and ownership group. Certainly, some of that sells and makes things more interesting in the sports media world, but that just isn’t typically the way of doing things when it comes to hockey people in the NHL world.

So, fear not, Boston sports fans, if the Patriots are disheartening you after back-to-back stinkers against Jacksonville and Detroit. Tonight marks the first of three final preseason games this week before the NHL roster gets finalized. Next week the B's start playing for keeps. 

The Bruins are back and they will disappoint you a lot less this season with a team that’s got a chance to be even better than last season’s exciting, resilient group that was, more importantly, a blast to watch. 

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Bjork nearing game action, but is it too late for an NHL spot?

Bjork nearing game action, but is it too late for an NHL spot?

BRIGHTON, Mass  -- It’s been a bit of a slow go of it for Anders Bjork in Bruins training camp this fall while coming back from shoulder surgery, and that’s beginning to make an impact on the youngster’s chances of cracking the NHL roster at the start of the season.

It’s no fault of Bjork’s obviously as returning from shoulder surgery is no easy feat in a game where heavy contact to the shoulders is an everyday experience. But as the former Notre Dame standout hasn’t been fully cleared by the medical staff to play in games, he’s fallen behind peers like Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato in the battle for a couple of open top-9 winger spots among the forward group.

Bjork did take some contact in 3-on-3 drills at practice on Sunday at Warrior Ice Arena and is expected to have a doctor’s appointment this week where he could get clearance to play in games.

That’s a better place to be in than Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Fitzgerald, Sean Kuraly, Martin Bakos and Jakub Zboril all currently sitting out practice with injuries, but the odds are getting more likely his season will start in Providence.

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“He’s kind of been in the practices and held out here or there. If I’m not mistaken he’s got an appointment tomorrow that might clarify a little more of where the next step is for him,” said Bruce Cassidy, who did have Bjork skating in a pretty good spot on the right side with Jake DeBrusk and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson at practice on Sunday. “Hopefully that leads to some games for him because it’s tough to make the team if you don’t play any exhibition games if you’re in his position. [Bergeron] is a different animal and [Torey Krug] too because they’ve both been here, but for Bjork he’s probably going to need to play some games. Hopefully he gets that opportunity.”

Bjork was keeping a pretty good approach to the slow, deliberate approach to this fall’s training camp, but undoubtedly knows he’s got a couple of big games at the end of this week to show what he can do before the roster gets cut down.

“I’m feeling good. I’m still technically not cleared for games at this point, which is a little bit frustrating to be honest with you,” said Bjork, who had four goals and 12 points in 30 games last season. “I think the doctors have experience with this and they’re smart, so I have trust in them and trust in the coaching staff as well. It’s good to get a little antsy to play, and that’s building up with me for sure. We’re in the thick of camp, so I’m excited to get things going.”

For a player like Bjork that’s still developing, it might not be the worst thing in the world to start at the AHL level and get plenty of playing time rather than be a 22-year-old playing a potentially sporadic role at the NHL level.