Bruins forward David Backes has officially served his three-game suspension and is getting a promotion in his first game back in action, as he’ll skate to the right of Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci against the Sabres tonight at TD Garden.
“We are trying to pin down a little bit more consistent lines,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said following Saturday’s optional morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “But I think that [second line], it’s fair to say, is a work in progress.
“David’s fresh coming back, he’ll be excited to play up in the lineup a little bit.”
The 34-year-old Backes has just three goals and 10 points through 33 games this season, but has been largely utilized in a fourth-line role throughout the season. The Backes promotion truly speaks to the second line struggles the Bruins have lived through all season — Ryan Donato started Thursday’s win over the Flames in that spot, but it was Danton Heinen that finished the game there — and comes with the hope that his right shot can give the trio a different look in the attacking zone.
“To have a right-handed shot on the right side of the ice will be something different,” DeBrusk, who’s scored three goals in his last three games, said. “Looking to help him have a good return and do anything we can to get some chemistry going.”
And despite serving his second suspension in less than a calendar year, Backes returns to the lineup with no plans of changing the style that’s made him a living since breaking into the league well over a decade ago.
“I think I’ve really adjusted my game to fit the way the rules are,” Backes offered. “There was no malice intended on the hit. If I was headhunting and looking for some blood, I think maybe I’d need to look in the mirror. But I don’t think that was the case. If I take hitting out of my game, I’ll be pretty useless in pretty quick order.
“I’ll play my game, and let the chips fall where they will.”
Tuukka Rask gets the start in net for the Bruins.
Sabres captain and superstar Jack Eichel, a player that’s torched the Bruins for five goals and 11 points in 13 career meetings, will miss tonight’s game with an upper-body injury.
This will be the final 2018-19 meeting between the B’s and Sabres this season.
The Bruins have wins in two of their three prior head-to-heads this season.
Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Bruins…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – David Backes
Ryan Donato – Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson – Danton Heinen
Sean Kuraly – Noel Acciari – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – John Moore
Matt Grzelcyk – Kevan Miller