By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Nearly a month after his scary collision with the Senators' Scott Sabourin, Bruins forward David Backes is "very close" to a return to the Boston lineup, according to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.
It's not the most comforting thought upon initial confirmation, as it's believed that Backes is working his way back from his fourth diagnosed concussion since signing with the Bruins in 2016. And it was just last week that Cassidy said that the Bruins were being "as careful as they need to be" given Backes' obvious injury history. (Backes, for the record, would not confirm or deny that he had a concussion, but noted that he did deal with 'concussion-like symptoms' in the days following the collision.)
But the 35-year-old Backes did what he could to put the masses at ease following full participation (and with a regular jersey on over his pads) in a Saturday morning practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
"I've been given a clean bill of health," Backes told reporters. "You know my history as far as if I'm playing when I'm at full health or not. I'm hopefully going to be available as soon as [Sunday] and then it would be up to the powers that be whether No. 42 can slot into the game to help us win another one."
.@dbackes42 on practicing in full on Saturday: "Just going through the process of what the doctors are telling me, trying to get back as quick as possible...feeling really great...feeling more like myself." pic.twitter.com/7bjkK0cYQc
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) November 30, 2019
And it doesn't sound like this is Backes simply self-diagnosing because of his obvious love for the game and desire to be part of his first (and perhaps only) Stanley Cup run, as Backes' unfortunate history with head injuries did force him to do his research with the doctors available to him both inside and outside the organization.
"Multiple neurologists have told me there's no reason for me to be hesitant [or] to worry about more contact [and] more hits because you're doing fine," Backes said. "From that, I'm excited to be back with a clean mind, not thinking that my next hit could be something that ends my career.
"That's something that's been on my mind and to not have that, I'm hoping to be freer and able to play a freer game out there."
Well, you can take comfort in Backes acknowledging his own health issues and double- and triple-checking to make sure he was indeed going to be OK if he returned to hockey. Not that it'll make you any happier to see No. 42 go hard into a corner or engage in a net-front battle (or drop the gloves), but his own understanding of his situation seems pretty important, all things considered. I mean, the last thing you want is Backes assuming the role of a boxer who can't walk away when it's time.
But now comes rediscovering his ideal spot within his Boston lineup, and if it truly exists. When healthy, the Bruins have found something that works with the third line trio of Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen as Charlie Coyle's wingers, and the Bruins have a fourth line that seems relatively set in stone. Bjork has been the wild card here, too, as he was not on the roster when Backes was, and the Bruins are now pushing closer towards their roster limit with the looming returns of Kevan Miller and Johnny Moore on the backend. It could be enough to create one hell of a cap headache for Don Sweeney's office.
All that maneuvering can wait, though, as the focus turns to seeing what Backes can do upon his return to action.
Backes has one assist, 13 shots on goal, and 14 hits in eight games with the Bruins this season.