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Backes Expected to Return, as Bruins Host Rangers

David Backes has missed Boston's past five games after elbow surgery

by Caryn Switaj @NHLBruins / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - David Backes is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday night, when the Bruins host the New York Rangers at TD Garden.

Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. ET (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).

Backes has missed the Bruins' past five games after having surgery on Monday, Oct. 24, to remove olecranon bursa from his elbow.

The forward re-joined his teammates on the ice for Saturday's pregame skate at Warrior Ice Arena. It marked his first practice with the group in about two weeks.

"He should be good for tonight," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien confirmed following the skate.

"We've seen what he did when he played for us - he's a big body, he's an experienced guy, he's strong on the puck. He brings a lot," said Julien. "He brings also a big presence to our hockey club. He's, without a doubt, going to be a bonus for us tonight."

Backes is more than ready to jump back into action. His last game came two weeks ago, when the Bruins hosted the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden on Oct. 22.

"I'm excited, if you can't tell, to play in the game," Backes smiled during his morning media availability. "We've got the Rangers, we've got a Saturday night home game. Unfortunately, have to wait till 7 o'clock to play it."

The veteran has to exercise some patience with his recovery. It was the first time he had ever had surgery in his 11-year NHL career.

"[The bursa] was lingering a little bit, and then re-hit it against Montreal and then it started to get angrier and angrier over the weekend and then Monday [Oct. 26] at practice, was able to fight through that, but then I saw the doctor and he said let's take care of this and get this behind us so we don't have lingering issues," said Backes.

In lay terms, the thin sac of fluid (bursa) that helps the skin glide over the bone at the tip of the elbow (olecranon) became inflamed and irritated, causing it to become filled with extra fluid. It results in painful swelling and can cause fever - and when the area becomes infected, it sometimes has to be removed with surgery.

"Not something you like to do, and my first hockey surgery, actually, in 11 years of playing in the league," said Backes. "But at some point it's going to happen and hopefully it's behind us and we move on and play the rest of the games."

Physically, Backes said the elbow has been feeling well for about a week.

"But you've got to let everything calm down and let the smart guys that went to all of the schooling advise on when medically it's advisable to get back in the game," he smiled. "But great to be on the ice with the guys again, great to see all of their faces and try to compliment each and every one of them on the job that they've done in the past couple of games of finding ways to win games."

"In these games, the difference between winning those and losing those can be the difference in playoffs or not at the end of the year, and you find a way, win them ugly and learn some lessons along the way, that's a great way to learn."

Backes is confident that the issue is now in the past, and he can contribute alongside his teammates.

"We'll be bumping and grinding the way we normally do and back to full speed, and hopefully continue to help these guys win games the way that they started a good streak on the road," said Backes.

He watched from afar as the Bruins went 3-for-3 on their road trip through Detroit (1-0), Sunrise (2-1) and and Tampa (4-3, SO).

"This new kind of identity that's been established on this road trip, is something where that can carry a long way and it's the identity that wins games in this league," said Backes. "And I recognize that that's the way it is, and that's my mentality as well - we'll all do our little piece and play and do all of the little things and sacrifice for the guys, and at the end of the game, we'll have more goals than the other team, and everyone's happy."

During the morning skate, Backes skated on the right wing, with David Krejci at center and Ryan Spooner on the left wing.

"We had two games together before I was out of the lineup, but you learn a little bit and you start to build that chemistry," Backes said of Krejci. "I watched him especially because I'm going to be playing with him, but I think his game is on such an upward trend, the way he's skating and strong on the puck and can make that separation, and he's got the vision to find the open guy and make great plays when he has that separation."

"Excited to get back in the lineup, excited to play with him and my other linemate, Ryan Spooner, he's a guy that's flying right now and strong on the pucks and I think he's getting that confidence that you're on the wall, but you can still use that speed but win those battles and get pucks to where they need to go, out of our zone and into their zone and let's get hunt it down again. He scores a big power play goal in Tampa, and things are looking up."

Beleskey Back In?

Matt Beleskey could slot back into the lineup on Saturday night, after sitting out as a scratch against Tampa on Thursday.

The winger took morning line rushes with Riley Nash and Jimmy Hayes.

Austin Czarnik rotated with Nash during the rushes. Czarnik has been skating with Krejci and Spooner, in Backes' spot on the right wing.

Either Nash or Czarnik could be the healthy scratch for the night. Sean Kuraly, who skated with Nash and Hayes in Beleskey's left wing spot against the Lightning, was assigned to the Providence Bruins on Friday after making his NHL debut.

"Game-time decision tonight on the extra guy," said Julien.

The Bruins have been looking for secondary production. Linemates Beleskey, Nash and Hayes are all looking for their first points of the season. Nash and Hayes could carry over a bit of confidence from both scoring in the shootout in Tampa and contributing to a big win.

"It's always nice for the coach to have confidence in you to go out there, and to help contribute in a win is always a good feeling," said Hayes. "And hopefully this can be a snowball effect here and I can start producing at a higher rate."

Rask Expected Between the Pipes

Tuukka Rask is 6-0-0 on the season, and is expected back between the pipes against the Rangers. Antti Raanta is expected in goal for New York.

Since returning in Detroit, Rask's steady play has helped the Bruins get back on track with a three-game win streak.

"He's had a real good stretch; he's given us the kind of hockey we need," said Julien. "I'm looking more at the overall picture, and he's been really good…he's been extremely good and given us a chance to win."

First-year defenseman Brandon Carlo has enjoyed his first games in front of Rask.

"I've seen a lot of amazing saves from him. He makes the game a lot easier on us," said Carlo. "He expresses to us that he just wants us to communicate with him on the ice and give him the best opportunity to see the puck, and when he sees the puck, he's most likely going to stop it, so he's been a great help, and he's been pretty phenomenal through the first couple games."

Video: BOS@FLA: Rask denies Pysyk's one-timer with the pad

Limiting the Rangers

With the league's highest scoring offense coming to town (with 45 goals scored), the Bruins are using their strong game against Detroit as a reference point.

In that 1-0 win, they were able to significantly limit Detroit's speed and scoring chances.

The Bruins were able to do that for half of a game, when they last faced the Rangers on Oct. 26, but they'll need it for the full 60 if they want to get a different outcome than the 5-2 loss suffered in that tilt.

"We just have to play our game - it's not about doing something differently than we do, "said Julien. "We've just got to be good at it, and respect and acknowledge the fact that they really like the speed game, even in the offensive zone. They do a good job of moving around and finding those open guys, so our structure in our D zone has to be good as well."

Miller, Khudobin Skating

A group of injured players, including defenseman Kevan Miller, forward Brian Ferlin and goaltender Anton Khudobin, hit the ice before the rest of the group at Warrior Ice Arena on Saturday morning.

Miller had hand surgery on Oct. 11 and is expected to be out for an estimated six weeks. Khudobin is recovering from an upper body injury (that was announced on Oct. 25) and is expected to miss about three weeks of action. He only worked on low pad stops.

Pregame Skate Lines and Defense Pairings 11/5

Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
Ryan Spooner-David Krejci-David Backes
Matt Beleskey-Riley Nash/Austin Czarnik-Jimmy Hayes
Tim Schaller-Dominic Moore-Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara-Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles-Colin Miller
Joe Morrow

Projected Starting Goalie: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Zane McIntyre

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