Sports fans love to see their team’s best players get injured and then return from said injury all within the same game.

David Backes returned from an ugly-looking injury and scored the game-winning goal on Wednesday. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

David Backes returned from an ugly-looking injury and scored the game-winning goal on Wednesday. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Sports fans love to see their team’s best players get injured and then return from said injury all within the same game.

It probably seems bizarre to the casual observer, and I’ll be honest and admit to them that I can’t explain it. It’s just a thing and will always will be a thing. Some players have built an entire reputation on their ability to endure the bumps and bruises of a season and actually use them to their advantage in the late stages of a year with sheer willpower.

David Backes is without a doubt one of those players.

The 6-foot-3 Backes has the scars and NHL track record to prove it, too, which is one of the reasons why the Black and Gold chose to invest $30 million in a player on the wrong side of 30 (Backes turns 33 later this year) last summer. An ironman willing to battle through anything — deficits, hits, and sometimes people — Backes showed off that part of his lauded character in Wednesday’s 4-2 victory over the Flames, a win that snapped Calgary’s 10-game winning streak and one that featured more than a couple of battles for Backes.

In pursuit of a loose puck tumbling towards the corner in the first period, Backes appeared to catch an edge and tumbled face-first into the boards. Was it his head? Backes has already missed time this season because of a concussion. Was it an arm, which appeared to get crunched into the boards, too? Or was it his lower body? Into the unknown of a player whose body language refused to give you much of a hint as to what was bothering him, Backes looked unable to put much of any weight on his leg and made his way down the tunnel and back to the B’s room with the help of fellow leaders Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara.

“It’s maybe scary at the time,” Backes admitted of his first period incident and brief departure to the locker room. “But get back with the training staff and they rub it, kiss it, and make you feel better and able to return to the game.”

Last seen with just under eight minutes left in the first period, it was when the clock read 12:46 left in the second period that Backes returned on the ice for his next shift. He came out with a bang, too, and instantly jumped back into the mix with a hard forechecking effort. It was on his second shift that he found the result that made the return from an injury even better, as he capitalized on a three-on-two effort with an up-high snipe on the Flames’ Chad Johnson for his 15th goal of the season.

 

And from his off side no less.

The goal was the Black and Gold’s necessary response after Dougie Hamilton tied things back up with a red line goal scored just 1:10 after Brad Marchand put the Bruins on top by a goal. When the Flames had their chance to blow this game open against Anton Khudobin, who was shaky at best through 40 minutes of play, it was the veteran Backes that shut that idea down.

The goal helped, of course, but it was the return of Backes’ presence alone that made a difference for the Bruins.

“Just to see a guy like that come out and be a warrior, obviously it’s not easy to come back when you’re hurting like he did, but he came out and really lifted up the team,” Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo said of Backes’ second period comeback. “As soon as he came back out on the ice, everybody was happy, excited, and pretty much brought a new energy.”

With a goal and three shots in 11:44 of time on ice, Backes has continued to turn it on for the Black and Gold of late, and has extended his recent run to four goals and 12 points in his last 15 games played. And though Wednesday’s game-winning goal will earn Backes points with a city that lives for this kind of stuff and from his teammates, it’s just another day at work for No. 42.

“The way guys are battling and playing for each other, I wanted to make sure that if there was a chance I could back out there and try to help our team win another game,” said Backes.

Backes and the Bruins return to action Thursday night against the Oilers.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins will try to end the Flames' 10-game winning streak tonight. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins will try to end the Flames’ 10-game winning streak tonight. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

The odds and recent history would tell you that the Bruins are up against it tonight when they skate against the Flames.

Not only have the Bruins won in Calgary just two times since 1999, and not only did the Flames take the prior head-to-head between the two teams this season, but the Flames come into action with a franchise-best 10-game winning streak to their name. Oh, and the Bruins are starting backup netminder Anton Khudobin over Tuukka Rask.

An easy win? This will be anything but.

But that same logic could and should be applied for the Bruins.

Under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins have rattled off wins in 11 of 14 games (something that the team has not done since Mar. to Apr. 2014 of their Presidents’ Trophy season), and Ryan Spooner is expected to return to action and pivot the B’s third line after missing the previous three games due to a concussion suffered last week in Ottawa. (Spooner’s return, by the way, will send Peter Cehlarik back to the press box as a healthy scratch.) And the Flames do come into action without Brian Elliott at their disposal, which means Chad Johnson will be in the crease opposite the 30-year-old Khudobin.

The Bruins also have one of the hottest skaters in the entire NHL, Brad Marchand, clicking at an incredible pace.

With a hat trick in the third period of Monday’s comeback win over the Canucks, the 28-year-old Marchand has now scored an incredible 18 goals in his last 19 games, and is tied with Sidney Crosby for the most goals in the NHL this season, with 35, and his 74 points are just two off from Patrick Kane and Connor McDavid for the most in the league. And for what it’s worth, the 5-foot-9 Marchand also comes into play with five goals in just eight career games against the Flames.

“Now that he’s close I’m sure he’s going to will himself to be the leading scorer, and if he doesn’t he’s going to be close, because when Brad gets after something, he’s not going to be denied,” Cassidy said of Marchand. “First it was getting to the National Hockey League, then getting into the lineup being a regular, and then moving up the lineup. He’s a pretty determined fella.”

The Bruins have not had a player lead the league in goals since Phil Esposito (61 goals) in 1974-75, and have not had a player lead the league in points since Bobby Orr (135 points) in that same season.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Drew Stafford – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes

Matt Beleskey – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Colin Miller – Kevan Miller

Anton Khudobin

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Boston’s newest ‘JFK’ — Bruins prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson — could make the jump from Comm. Ave to Causeway St. a little sooner than anticipated, according to a report from the Red Line Report’s Kirk Luedeke.

Boston’s newest ‘JFK’ — Bruins prospect Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson — could make the jump from Comm. Ave to Causeway St. a little sooner than anticipated, according to a report from the Red Line Report’s Kirk Luedeke.

On his latest post on his personal blog, Luedeke writes that Forsbacka-Karlsson, a second-round draft pick (45th overall) in 2015, is leaning towards turning pro once his sophomore season with the Boston University Terriers comes to close.

This was something Bruins general manager Don Sweeney hinted at during his trade deadline press conference.

“We have college kids that may decide [to go pro] and make that decision a little easier,” Sweeney said of the organization’s collegiate prospects. “Those are case by case situations. But we do have some players that we’re going to make decisions on or they’re gonna make decisions in the coming weeks. And we have flexibility to be able to do that — to add those players contractually and bring them into the fold if that’s what we decide to do and that’s what they decide to do.”

Masked by the hype of Terriers teammate and fellow Bruins prospect Charlie McAvoy, Forsbacka-Karlsson has been compared to Patrice Bergeron for his defensive instincts as a centerman, and his ability to get the job done in all three zones of the rink. That has been the case since he first joined the Terriers, and came through in his last game, as Forsbacka-Karlsson was a standout in BU’s Game 2 win over Northeastern in the Hockey East quarterfinals last weekend.

“He was huge,” BU coach David Quinn said of Forsbacka Karlsson. “He’s been a little snakebitten in the point department, but when we needed him most, he stood tall. … Jakob not only had three points, but he played well for 200 feet.”

A Stockholm, Swe. native, the 6-foot-1 forward has 23 goals and 61 points in 75 games with BU since 2015.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Bruins prospect Anders Bjork has been named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

Bruins prospect Anders Bjork has been named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

Bruins prospect Anders Bjork has been on fire all year long, and has been properly recognized for his accomplishments with the word that Bjork is among the 10 finalists for the 2017 Hobey Baker Award.

In his junior season with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the 20-year-old Bjork has recorded 19 goals and 47 points in just 35 games for the Irish. Those 47 points are not only a career-high for Bjork, but also rank as the sixth-most in Hockey East and 11th-most in the country.

The Wisconsin-born Bjork currently ranks 46th on the Irish’s all-time scoring list, with 104 points in 111 games, and became the first player to record 100 career points by his junior year since T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee accomplished the feat in 2013, according to Notre Dame.

A fifth-round draft pick (146th overall) in 2014, Bjork’s team will skate at TD Garden this weekend as they compete against UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East semifinals on Friday, Mar. 17 at 5 p.m.

It’s believed that the Bruins will make a significant push to get Bjork signed this summer.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Anton Khudobin will start Wednesday against the Flames. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin will start Wednesday against the Flames. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Set to kick off the first of three back-to-backs remaining on their 13-game slate to finish the season, Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy will turn to Anton Khudobin tonight against the Flames.

Confirmed as the starter following Tuesday’s optional skate at Corral Arena in Calgary, Khudobin’s start against the Flames means that Tuukka Rask will get the call Thursday night against the Oilers.

As detailed on Tuesday, the importance of Cassidy successfully managing each goalie’s workload to finish out the season remains a key for the Black and Gold, even in the middle of a playoff race, and this decision was probably a lot easier than it looks on paper.

There’s no way around saying that the Flames are and have been a complete buzzsaw of late, with a franchise-record 10 straight victories, including a shootout win over the defending Stanley Cup winning Penguins on Monday night.

They’re one of just a few teams that have been hotter than the B’s since Feb. 7 (when they B’s replaced Claude Julien with Cassidy), as the Flames are 12-1-1 compared to the B’s 11-3-0 mark over that span. And the Flames have doubled up their opponents of late, having outscored their opponents 37-to-18 over the course of their current win streak.

So, it appears Khudobin and the Bruins are up against it. And the 30-year-old’s last performance — a 15-of-17 win against the Devils on Mar. 4 — looks far from inspiring. But Cassidy looked beyond the seemingly ugly two goals on 17 shots stat line.

“His game was good. At the end of the day, they were high-end chances that they scored on,” Cassidy said of Khudobin in his postgame availability back on Mar. 4. “He did his job, you know, he hung in there, he made saves when he had to and he got the win for it so I’m sure he’s happy. It was a tough first half of the year for him and he’s kind of found his game here a little bit and we’ve talked about it – it’s well documented. We need him, we need him to be good, give us a chance to win.”

Khudobin also started the B’s last head-to-head against the Flames, and made 27 stops in a 2-1 Black Friday loss.

With Brian Elliott under the weather, Chad Johnson gets the start opposite Khudobin. Johnson put together a 35-of-36 night against the Bruins in his last start against his former club, and enters play with 18 wins and a .913 save percentage in 33 games.

The Bruins have not won in Calgary since Dec. 2013, and have two just two wins in nine games in Calgary since 1999.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Bruins forward Ryan Spooner has been seen around the rink and even on the ice since suffering a concussion last week against the Senators.

That on its own is a good sign for the Bruins.

Ryan Spooner could be back in the lineup on Wednesday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins center Ryan Spooner (concussion) could be back in the lineup on Wednesday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins forward Ryan Spooner has been seen around the rink and even on the ice since suffering a concussion last week against the Senators.

That on its own is a good sign for the Bruins.

Remember, David Backes was told to not look at screens or even come to the rink during the worst and early days of his concussion recovery. Spooner continued to progress when he traveled to Western Canada with the rest of his teammates. That progression took its next and perhaps last step at an optional skate on Tuesday morning, as Spooner was on the ice and working out with his teammates in hopes of maybe playing in Wednesday’s head-to-head with the white-hot Flames.

“He went through the last part of his [concussion] protocol,” said Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy when asked about Spooner’s status. “We’re cautiously optimistic if he comes out of [Tuesday]’s skate and he’s fine, then he’ll probably play [Wednesday].”

Back in his natural center position under Cassidy, the 25-year-old Spooner has returned to form of late, with three goals and seven points in 11 Cassidy-coached contests, and will return to that spot if he does indeed play on Wednesday, according to Cassidy. Who that would leave on the outs remains something Cassidy will think about that until then, too.

“He would go back in as the third line center, so we’d move [Riley] Nash to the wing on the third or fourth line, we’ll make that decision tomorrow,” Cassidy, who has regularly featured a revolving door of ice-time among his bottom-six forwards, noted. “Until he’s ready to go and he tells me he’s back in, then I don’t want to speculate who would come out.”

The 5-foot-10 Spooner has tallied 11 goals and 34 points in 65 games for the Black and Gold this season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The Bruins are 11-3-0 under Bruce Cassidy. (Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today Sports)Let me finally say it: I was wrong. So very, incredibly wrong.