SUNRISE, Fla. - Forward David Backes could make his return to the lineup on Saturday night against the Florida Panthers.
Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. EST (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
Backes has missed the Bruins' past three games after suffering a concussion on Dec. 29 in Buffalo. He was medically cleared prior to Boston's game against Edmonton on Thursday night, but was not quite at 100 percent in terms of conditioning.
"It will be a decision we'll make shortly," Head Coach Claude Julien said following Saturday's pregame skate at the BB&T Center, when he was asked if Backes was expected to make his return.
"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," said Julien. "He 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."
"Feeling, again, better today," Backes said following pregame skate. "So it will probably be a game-time decision for the coaching staff, but I feel pretty good and hopefully will make myself available to them to use me if I can help them."
"Hopeful for tonight, and we'll see at game time whether they give the nod or not, but I'm very hopeful for it," he smiled.
Backes got in plenty of extra conditioning and battling work after the team's pregame skate on Thursday, and then again in practice back in Boston on Friday.
"Feeling good again, it's nice to feel back to normal and hopefully [I'll be] back in action and back in the swing and routine of NHL hockey," said Backes.
Liles Getting Close
Defenseman John-Michael Liles has missed the Bruins' past 19 games after sustaining a concussion on Nov. 27 at TD Garden when he crashed into the end boards. The blueliner has been skating with the team, and took contact in practice on Friday.
"We'll see," said Julien. "He's probably ready to go, I think, from what I'm being told, and we have to make a decision, whether we think he's ready or not to jump in."
"I've just been trying to work my way back after being out for a number of weeks, and I've been feeling good the last little while, so we'll see when I get in," said Liles.
After six weeks out of the lineup, he's certainly eager to get back in.
"Yeah, I am; it's been a while," said Liles. "It was a long month, and it's never fun, just because for the majority of it, you can't really do a whole lot. It's nice to be back on the road and skating and participating in practice and getting back into some bumps and some hits and things like that, so just eager and ready to get back in to a game at some point."
The Bruins kick off a four-game road trip on Saturday night against the Panthers, before heading to Carolina to face the Hurricanes on Sunday, and then finishing the trip in St. Louis and Nashville.
With 44 points in the standings through 41 games, the Bruins are tied with the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs, but both of those teams have games in hand. That leaves Boston currently one position out of a playoff spot.
The Panthers are right behind the Bruins with 42 points through 40 games. The B's have won all three matchups against the Panthers so far this season.
"It's one of those teams that we've played well enough and we've managed to find ways to win those games, where that hasn't always been the case for us this year," said Julien. "So every time we seem to play this team, it seems like it's an important game, it's a game that's a big four-point game that they're close to us, or we're just barely ahead of them and we go out there and battle hard."
Pregame Skate Lines and Defense Pairings 1/7
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
John-Michael Liles - Joe Morrow
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Zane McIntyre
Video: Backes and Liles getting close