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.


"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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Bruins don't expect David Backes to retire after demotion to AHL

Bruins don't expect David Backes to retire after demotion to AHL

David Backes was waived by the Boston Bruins late last week. The statement move to demote the veteran Bruin was part of two critical changes that the B's made to their team. The other was waiving fellow enforcer and physical forward Brett Ritchie.

After Backes' demotion, there was some speculation that the 14-year veteran may opt to retire instead of playing in the AHL for the Providence Bruins. But according to Bruins president Cam Neely, Backes hasn't indicated that he will do that.

"I don’t think he has a mindset of retirement," said Neely per Kevin Paul Dupont of The Boston Globe. "He’s a very proud man, and a professional. I still have the feeling he thinks he can help, so we’ll see where it goes from here."

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This isn't altogether surprising. Backes may be holding out hope that he'll get another chance to play moving forward if he can prove himself in the AHL. 

Backes turns 36 in May, but hockey players often have long careers. So, it's possible that Backes could find a role as a veteran depth piece for another team. It'll just be on a deal much cheaper than the five-year, $30 million deal he signed with the Bruins back in the 2016 offseason.

That said, it's worth noting that Backes has had concussion issues in recent seasons. So that could impact his decision-making moving forward.

In 16 games this season, Backes had just one goal and two assists for the Bruins. He'll take some time off before joining the Providence Bruins later this month.

McAvoy takes blame in bad loss at Pittsburgh: "I've got to be better for the team"

McAvoy takes blame in bad loss at Pittsburgh: "I've got to be better for the team"

PITTSBURGH — It would appear that patience is beginning to wear thin on the season-long performance of Charlie McAvoy.

Ahead of his third NHL season, the 22-year-old defenseman was picked by some to be a Norris Trophy winner. He was given a three-year bridge contract toward a much bigger deal, based on the expectation he’d quickly develop into a No. 1 defenseman. 

But it’s been a fitful year of development for McAvoy. He’s still searching for his first goal of the season headed into next week’s NHL All-Star break, and he’s been a minus player for the month of January.

Things came to a bit of a head Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. McAvoy was at the center of the Penguins' third period game-winning play that made a 4-3 comeback win. Evgeni Malkin neutralized a hesitating McAvoy with a big hit, stripped the puck away from before he could outlet it to Sean Kuraly or Zdeno Chara, and then fed to Bryan Rust in front for the game-winner.

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McAvoy was quietly accountable following the game, and knew exactly where he’d gone wrong.

“I got it and I was trying to make a reverse play to [Kuraly]. There are good players in this league. They made a good play. I’ve got to be stronger on the puck,” said McAvoy. “I was trying to make a puck possession play. I’ll have to look at it and get better from it, but it obviously hurt us.

“It’s frustrating. From an overall game I was feeling good and liking my game, but then it’s tough to give up a play like that and feel good about it. I’ve got to be better for the team and for [Jaroslav] Halak.”

McAvoy was in the middle of another scoring play for the Penguins when Sidney Crosby made a highlight-reel, backhanded and between-the-legs dish to Teddy Blueger for a second period goal. McAvoy was a half-second late getting to the front of the net to stop the play. He wasn’t the only one playing poorly on Sunday; John Moore didn’t play too much after Crosby fended him off behind the Boston net to set up the Pens' first goal.

Cassidy called the plays “gifts”. He seemed to be challenging McAvoy in particular in his post-game comments.

“We get beat off the wall on the first wall and the [game-winner] I can’t tell you what happened to be honest with you," Cassidy said. "It’s a rimmed puck that the goalie needs to get out and stop and the D need to communicate. You need to make a play. You can’t turn the puck over there. 

"There is too much of that going on. Guys that have offensive ability have to start playing to their strength a little bit more on the back end. Or we have to seriously consider what kind of D-corps do we want.

“We’re supposed to be mobile, we’re supposed to be able to move pucks, break pucks out and add to our offense. Right now, that’s a challenge for us.”

The good news is that McAvoy and the Bruins have just one more game, and then they will get 10 days to hit the reset button, thanks to the All-Star break. Perhaps that’s what McAvoy needs to get his game back on track, after a first half where he did some good things while learning his trade as a No. 1 D-man. He leads the Bruins in ice time (23:12 per game) and blocked shots, often getting matched up against the other team’s best offensive players.

But McAvoy has also very consistently played below his talent level. He's a gifted two-way defenseman capable of doing just about anything, and one who many believed was going to have a breakout NHL season. That hasn’t happened yet.

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