BRIGHTON, Mass – David Backes has missed a month of hockey with the latest in what’s now considered a handful of concussions over the last few years with the Boston Bruins. But it’s not stopping the 35-year-old from continuing to play the game he loves.

Backes returned to practice over the last week and will return to the Bruins lineup for Sunday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens after missing the last 13 games following a hellacious early November head-to-head collision with Ottawa’s Scott Sabourin that left both players concussed in the aftermath.

Backes has an assist while averaging little more than eight minutes of ice time in his eight games played this season, and will re-enter the lineup as a bottom-6 right wing component on a line with Sean Kuraly and Anders Bjork. It’s exactly the kind of spot where the big-bodied winger could make a positive impact and appeared to be doing just that before he lost a month’s worth of games to the head injury.

Given his age and the amount of shots that he’s taken, it would be natural to wonder if Backes is unwise to keep playing given what we know about concussions and a player’s health and well-being after their hockey career. But Backes has done his due diligence on that subject and feels clear-headed about his return to a B’s lineup where he knows he can help with his size, strength and ability to still play the game when the skating legs are up to speed.

 

“I’m feeling really great since about 10 days ago and been a full go of on-the-ice training and off-the-ice training, and feeling more like myself. I couldn’t be happier to be a full-go and hopefully playing contact hockey against a different team in short order,” said Backes. “You play this game long enough [concussions] are going to happen, but I’ve been in great hands. I’ve gone through all the regimen of health checks and [the doctors] are telling me that I’m ready to go. So I’m excited to get back.”

Still, Backes has missed a month of time, so the Bruins are managing expectations on what they’ll get out of him on Sunday.

“We’d just like to see him perform at an NHL pace right now. He’s missed a month, so it’s a lot of hockey games. Just getting back in and getting his feet back under him with limited time and space, it’s not practice anymore,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Hopefully he’s up to task for his shifts 5-on-5 and we’ll try to work him into the second power play [unit]. We’ll see where it leads us.”

Aside from Backes returning to the lineup, Brad Marchand (flu-like symptoms) is expected to play even if he’s “less than 100 percent” according to Bruce Cassidy. Patrice Bergeron skated on his own prior to Sunday’s morning skate, so there is encouraging progress with his lower body injury as well. Other than that the big change to the lineup will be Tuukka Rask inserted back in between the posts after Jaroslav Halak got the start on Friday afternoon against the New York Rangers.

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings based on Sunday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena:

FORWARD LINES

Jake DeBrusk David Krejci David Pastrnak
Anders Bjork Charlie Coyle Danton Heinen
Brendan Gaunce Sean Kuraly David Backes
Joakim Nordstrom Par Lindholm Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk Connor Clifton

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