Bruins

Backes is the silver lining in the dark cloud of Bruins injury news

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Backes is the silver lining in the dark cloud of Bruins injury news

BRIGHTON -- Keeping track of Bruins injuries is a full-time job.

Brad Marchand was still wearing a no-contact jersey at practice Saturday and will be out for Sunday’s late-afternoon tilt against the Edmonton Oilers. Anders Bjork (upper body) didn't skate at all and is out for at least the next week. Neither Ryan Spooner nor Peter Cehlarik  practiced Saturday after getting dinged up in Friday’s win over the Penguins, and only Spooner even has a chance of playing Sunday against the Oilers.

But one of the better injury stories is David Backes, who has been cleared for contact little more than three weeks after getting 10 inches of his colon removed in an abdominal surgery for diverticulitis. Backes isn’t going to play on Sunday and still doesn’t know exactly when he’ll be cleared medically for game action, but he wants to make sure his conditioning is up to snuff when he does return.

“I’m trying have guys lean on me and me lean on other guys to continue making that progression to hopefully getting back as soon as we can,” said Backes, who played in five games with a single assist before succumbing to surgery. “Whenever that is, we’ll see. You can skate all you want, but real fatigue is battling around with guys to find pucks, and see how my insides react to that sort of thing,. I’ve had no issues yet, and we’ll continue to monitor and progress so hopefully I’ll be putting a game jersey on in short order.

“We haven’t gone that far [to target dates]. I don’t how you’re going to simulate getting hit for real, or getting hit really hard. Truthfully if I’m healthy I’ve got to find my way into the lineup because we’ve got different guys contributing at different times. It’s building character and identity in the room, and we need to make when other guys come back that we keep that character and identity.”

It will be interesting to see where the Bruins are at with Backes next week when, after a Wednesday night meeting with the division-leading Lightning, they play just once in five days. Still, Backes is still weeks ahead of an expected two-month recovery period after an intricate surgery that cut through his abdominal muscles.

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Continued hard hits taking a toll on David Backes

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Continued hard hits taking a toll on David Backes

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins 3-2 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night that drops them to 0-1-1 on their four-game swing through Canada that continues on Saturday against the Canucks.

1) The reality is that David Backes is 34 years old and he’s taken a lot of heavy hits over the years.

It was something that certainly cropped up last season when his playoffs ended with a thud after getting hammered by J.T. Miller, and it’s a simple fact of life that Backes has taken a lot of big hits in his 800 plus career NHL games. He only played six-plus minutes in Thursday night’s overtime loss as the Bruins were being careful with him, and it sounded like he was going to be okay for Saturday night against the Canucks. That’s good news in the short term, but one has to wonder how many more of those big, high hits that Backes is going to be able to absorb before it knocks him out of commission for a while. Some of that is just the nature of a big, physical power forward headed toward the very back end of his prime years, and some of it is that a slower Backes has become more of a target for the predatory hits like the one issued by Matt Benning on Thursday night. Here’s hoping Backes can avoid those and continue to be the hard-hitting, physical tough guy who’s been very effective at the NHL level throughout his career, but the sight of a dazed Backes leaving the ice after the Benning hit was a cold dose of reality. It also illustrated just how precarious things are with the Bruins' third line right now as they’re pretty much relying on Backes to be the third line center, and Backes still hasn't scored a point yet through six games this season.

2) It was good to see Danton Heinen back with the second line of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, and he helped them get on the score sheet in Thursday night’s overtime loss.

While it didn’t help them win the game, it’s not surprising that a little secondary scoring helped the Bruins at least get a point after a rough showing against Calgary. Heinen combined with Matt Grzelcyk and Krejci to produce the first goal for the Bruins, and perhaps it will begin to usher in a hot stretch for the second year winger. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s able to operate on the left side with DeBrusk switching over to right wing, and that might be the way to get the most out of either Heinen or Ryan Donato on that line. The assist, two shots on net and plus-1 rating represents the best game of the young season from Heinen after from a healthy scratch, and perhaps it’s something that he can build on moving forward. That will be important to the Bruins reaching their potential, and it’s also a big deal for Heinen given that his name has started popping up in trade rumors at this early point in the season.

3) Once again Jaroslav Halak gave the Bruins a chance to win and didn’t allow any soft goals in the overtime loss.

On the contrary, he made some big stops when he needed to and was pretty much hung out to dry with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl bearing down on him in overtime after a Brad Marchand turnover. So it will be interesting to see which goalie gets the start on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks with Bruce Cassidy only publicly scripting out the first two games of the road trip, and his two goalies trending in very different directions with the way they’re playing right now. If it’s Halak that gets the start on Saturday night, it’s going to be the start of a really interesting goalie dynamic between Halak and Tuukka Rask with the backup clearly holding the ability to make the No. 1 guy sit down for a while.   

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Source: Benning won't face league discipline for hit on Backes

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Source: Benning won't face league discipline for hit on Backes

Former Bruins draft pick Matt Benning won’t be facing any supplemental discipline for a hit in Edmonton's victory over the Bruins on Thursday night that essentially knocked B’s forward David Backes out of the game, per a hockey source.  

Benning lined Backes up in the neutral zone on his first shift of the first period and drilled the big Bruins center with a shoulder hit that appeared to mostly get him in the chest, but it also clearly caught some of his chin/head given how dazed he was in the aftermath. Benning wasn’t whistled for a penalty and Backes sat out the rest of the first period for precautionary reasons and played only six-plus minutes in the game.

Afterward, Bruce Cassidy said that Backes was “okay” and he was cleared to continue playing even if he was used sparingly.

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"David was OK," Cassidy offered after the loss, his team's second in as many nights. "We didn’t use him as much because he missed some time and we want the player’s safety first. But it’s good to see he was able to be cleared to get back in the game and hopefully he’s good to go Saturday [against the Canucks]."

The sense of the hit from a league perspective was that the head was not the main point of contact on the body check and that the video replays were also fairly inconclusive that it was anything beyond a hard shoulder to Backes’ chest. Benning has no prior history with the NHL Department of Player Safety. He also had to exit the game with a separate injury suffered after the Backes hit.

The concern, of course, is that Backes, at 34, has had multiple concussions. After more than 800 games played in the league, those head hits are beginning to add up for the rugged veteran. 

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