The Bruins and David Backes have been patient. Patience they hope will finally pay off.
Out for the last three games with a concussion, one that Backes considers the fourth of his NHL career, there have been days where the 32-year-old has felt probable, and others where he’s felt doubtful in regards to his ability to play. Sometimes the doubtful days have followed the probable days.
But after a Friday practice back in Boston in which Backes was out later than most Bruins for some extra conditioning, and after a full participation in Saturday’s morning skate, the do-it-all forward appears to be a go for the struggling Bruins for tonight’s road head-to-head with the Panthers.
“Head injuries are pretty important things to deal with and we don’t push anybody to come back with a concussion until we feels he’s 100 percent,” Bruins coach Claude Julien, whose team has dropped two in a row and 11 of their last 16 overall, said following the pregame skate. “[Backes] didn’t last time before we played Edmonton and we didn’t hesitate, we didn’t let him play, so we’ll see how everything goes here.”
Expected back in the lineup and on the second line with David Krejci and Ryan Spooner, Backes’ boost will be a big one for a Bruins team that’s gone 4-4-0 without him (Backes missed five games earlier this season with an elbow injury), but have been outscored 21-to-11 in those eight games.
It’s a game against the Panthers, so you know what that means: Tuukka Rask gets the nod in net for the Bruins.
The 29-year-old has been his normal dominant self against the Panthers this year, with three wins and a .947 save percentage in three games, and has won 18 of 22 career games against the Panthers along with a .949 save percentage.
Rask is still searching for his first win of the 2017, though, with two losses and a .880 in two games played.
The Panthers counter with James Reimer for the second time in as many nights. Reimer stopped 28-of-29 shots in a 2-1 win over Nashville on Friday night, and comes into action with seven wins and a .930 save percentage in 16 career starts against the Black and Gold. Reimer stopped 30-of-32 in a losing effort in his last start against the Bruins.
This is the fourth of five meetings between the Bruins and Panthers this year. The B’s have won all three meetings so far.
Here are the expected lines and pairings…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes
Frank Vatrano – Austin Czarnik – Jimmy Hayes
Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash
Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller – Colin Miller