Bruins

David Backes 'excited' to return to B's lineup vs. Habs after month lost to concussion

David Backes 'excited' to return to B's lineup vs. Habs after month lost to concussion

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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Extra defenseman Steven Kampfer placed on waivers by the Bruins

Extra defenseman Steven Kampfer placed on waivers by the Bruins

With the return of John Moore to good health and a general lack of tight focus to the team recently, the confluence of events pushed the Bruins to make a move ahead of a four-game road trip next week.

The Bruins announced that they have waived veteran defenseman Steve Kampfer at noontime on Sunday for the purpose of sending him down to the AHL. It was clear the B’s were going to opt for the 31-year-old Kampfer rather than Connor Clifton, who just a couple of weeks ago passed the 60 NHL games played barrier that would also require waivers for him to be sent down to the AHL.

There’s a far greater chance that a team would put a claim in on the 24-year-old Clifton, who has two goals and a plus-5 rating in 24 games for the Black and Gold this season.

The final straw for Kampfer was the healthy return of Moore, who missed the first 28 games of the season coming back from shoulder surgery. But Moore has played in back-to-back games for the Bruins and collected an assist in Saturday night’s 4-1 loss to the Avalanche while showing that he’s all the way back from an injury suffered during last spring’s playoff run.

Kampfer has played in just four games for the Bruins this season as their seventh defenseman after putting up three goals and six points in 35 games as their spare D-man last season. While there’s a chance that a team could put a claim in on Kampfer, the likelihood given his age and experience level is that he’ll head to Providence to stay sharp for when another round of injuries inevitably hit the Bruins on the back end.

There’s also no question that a player being put on waivers that’s been with the Bruins for the last couple of seasons might be enough to also shake the complacency out of a B’s group that’s been sleepwalking against opponents over the last couple of weeks. They are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, of course, but they have needed a handful of third period comebacks after making slow starts the norm as of late.

There’s also the chance that the Bruins need the cap savings associated with Kampfer’s $800,000 cap hit after Moore’s $2.75 million cap figure was added back onto Boston’s books once he got healthy earlier this week.

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Bruce Cassidy: 'We've just got to wake up and start playing to our abilities'

Bruce Cassidy: 'We've just got to wake up and start playing to our abilities'

BOSTON – It was only a matter of time before the Bruins got burned for playing like they could flick on a third period switch and beat everybody across the NHL.

After a number of third period comebacks and salvaged points over the last couple of weeks, the Bruins couldn’t pull the same trick against the Colorado Avalanche in a 4-1 loss at TD Garden on Saturday night. It was the first regulation loss on home ice for the Bruins this season at TD Garden and it was exactly what Boston deserved after managing just nine shots on net in the first two periods while making some simple mistakes that led to goals against at inopportune times.

“For us, [it was a] lack of urgency. We talked about it the other night, again tonight, some of that is definitely in our game early on. If we’re on our toes, I think we’re cleaner. I’m not going to say that we’re not going to execute from time to time, but it’s been an issue for us I think. Some of the unforced errors — I just look at the play, Grizz [Matt Grzelcyk] takes a hit, [Danton] Heinen goes back with the puck. If we’re playing the right way, we’re in and out of our end. We’re gone,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We go back with it and all of a sudden [it’s in the net]. We win a faceoff to start a period and we ice it instead of making a play. Now we’re in our end and there’s just a lot of details that are working us against us now. We’ve just got to wake up and start playing to our abilities in those situations, and live with the result.

“[It] doesn’t mean we’re going to win, but I think we’re leaving plays on the table because our lack of urgency or understanding that teams are coming after us. They’re good teams. We got away with it for a while here, good for us, right? It’s a results-oriented business. But against the better teams, I think at some point, they will close out games. [The loss to the Avs] was a great example of that.”

The Heinen play really was the killer as it came midway through the second period, led to the Bruins running around in their own end and then ended with Ian Cole rocketing a slap shot past Jaroslav Halak from the top of the face-off circle. Then Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk botched defensive coverage in transition at the end of the second period, and that led to Andre Burakovsky scoring the insurance goal right at the end of the period.

At that point, it was over despite Boston outshooting Colorado by a 12-6 margin in the third period, and the Bruins have to hope that it was a lesson learned at this point. It may take a few games for the Bruins to snap out of some of their current bad habits, but there’s also that overall malaise that might be an unavoidable part of the team’s commanding 13-point lead in the Atlantic Division.

That being said, Brad Marchand spoke for all of Boston’s team leadership in knowing that the current state of being for the Black and Gold isn’t something that can sustainably bring success.

“It’s a losing game. You can’t continue to go down by a couple of goals, especially to good teams,” said Marchand. “Teams like that know how to win and how to keep a lead. No matter how many times you come back, it’s going to eventually catch up to you. We’ve had that, especially early on [in games]. We tend to be much better when we’re behind. I think then it’s a bit of a wakeup call and we all have to play good in order to come back.

“But we have to play that way from the first shift of the first period. If you want to win, if you want to be a good team and if you want to have a chance in the playoffs, you have to be able to do that all game along. It’s tough sometimes because the season can get long. That’s no excuse. We have to realize the mistakes that we’re making and improve if want to continue to get better. That’s what good teams do.”

It would behoove the Bruins to get things in order quickly with a slate of important games over the next week including a mid-week tilt with the Washington Capitals, and a pair of divisional games against Tampa Bay and Florida later on in the week. But there really isn’t any worry coming from the B’s about anybody distantly trailing them in the standings right now while 8-1-1 in their last 10 games overall.

Instead it’s about the Bruins themselves becoming the best hockey team that they can be and getting back into a groove where they are paying attention to details and doing the little things that lead to winning hockey.  

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