Kim Klement/USA Today Sports

Unfortunate Backes injury presents opportunities for Bruins bottom six

Matt Kalman
October 22, 2018 - 3:49 pm

No one wants to ever see a player get injured.

But for the remaining healthy forwards that make up the Bruins’ bottom six, David Backes’ absence will settle at least one debate: has the 34-year-old Backes been clogging up the works in the Bruins’ pursuit of a consistent third and fourth line?

Backes was sent back to Boston, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told the media in Ottawa on Monday. Backes hasn’t felt well since he was hit high by Edmonton’s Matt Benning in the first period of Boston’s 3-2 loss at Edmonton on Thursday. Backes returned to play the rest of that game but was scratched in Vancouver on Saturday.

So the forward won’t be playing in the Bruins’ finale of their four-game road trip against the Senators on Tuesday. In practice Monday, Joakim Nordstrom centered a third line with Anders Bjork and Chris Wagner on their strong wings. That line had a couple successful shifts and was responsible for Boston’s lone goal in the 2-1 overtime loss to the Canucks on Saturday.

In seven games this season, Backes had no points and eight shots on net. He started the season on the wing, but Sean Kuraly’s struggles as a third-line center, and ability to thrive as a fourth-line center, caused Cassidy to shift Backes to the middle. Unfortunately losing 10 pounds doesn’t suddenly allow a 34-year-old to cover the type of ground a center has to cover and Backes has struggled.

Because he’s a proud, veteran player, brings a lot of leadership, and carries a $6 million salary, the Bruins weren’t apt to make Backes a healthy scratch any time soon. Bjork, Wagner, Nordstrom, Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato have all taken a turn as a scratch. Again, it’s terrible to see Backes go out of the lineup this way. But the Bruins now have an opportunity to see what they’re team, especially their bottom six, can do without a slow, straight-line player that hasn’t really found his game in two-plus seasons since he signed here July 1, 2016.

*Cassidy said he’s leaning toward giving Tuukka Rask the start in net after Jaroslav Halak started the past two games. The Bruins are 0-1-2 on the road trip thus far.

*Torey Krug, who has been out all season with an ankle injury, is close to joining the Bruins for practice, possibly as soon as Wednesday.

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