BOSTON - Just when the Bruins thought they were nearing full health, more bad news arrived at the doorstep on Tuesday afternoon.
While David Backes, Brad Marchand, and Ryan Spooner all participated fully in practice and appear close to a return to game action, Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci missed the session and have been ruled out for Wednesday night's tilt with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
DeBrusk, day-to-day with an upper-body ailment, will become the 14th Bruin to miss time because of injury this season. Krejci, meanwhile, re-aggravated an upper-body injury that sidelined him for 11 games earlier this season. The pivot (also day-to-day) had played in five games since returning and was riding a two-game scoring streak (2-1-3).
"It's tough. Every team goes through it though. You see it all around the league," said Marchand, who has sat out six straight games and eight out of 10 because of injury. "I think Anaheim is in a similar situation as well. You have to battle through and the guys have. We've won four of the last five and we're starting to come together. It's good that guys are able to step up and guys are getting opportunities to take control and be big for us.
"Guys have done that and we have to continue to find ways to win. At the end of the year, you don't want to have any excuses, you want to battle through it and it's going to make the team better."
Video: Krejci and DeBrusk ruled out against Tampa
Marchand shed the burgundy non-contact jersey for Tuesday's session and will be a game-time decision against the Lightning.
"Not very much fun wearing that, nice to get the regular one back on and take part in the full practice," said Marchand, "So it was good, I felt good today - felt good the last few days. I guess we'll see."
David Backes has also been termed day-to-day and a game-time decision for Wednesday night and appears to be well ahead of schedule in his recovery from colon surgery. Backes was originally given an estimated recovery time of eight weeks after the procedure on Nov. 2.
"Feeling pretty good," said Backes. "Another step today in practice with full contact, trying to egg a little more contact with the day off yesterday and trying to push and test things so that you're still in a little bit more of a controlled environment.
"If things are not good, you can call timeout, where as in a game there's not that luxury or tell everyone to take a second to regroup. Went well, we'll see what tomorrow brings."
Ryan Spooner was also back at practice after missing Sunday's game against Edmonton.
"Had some time off, so he's doing well. Looking good for tomorrow," said Cassidy.
Video: Brad Marchand speaks to the media
In other positive injury news, Anders Bjork was back on the ice for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 11. The rookie winger, who has missed the last six games, was donning a burgundy non-contact jersey and did not take part in the second half of practice, which consisted of several battle drills. He will not play against Tampa Bay.
Goalie Decision Coming
Cassidy did not divulge which goalie will start against the Tampa Bay Lightning, saying he will announce his final decision on Wednesday morning.
"Ideally, I'd like both goalies to give us a chance to win every night and be at the top of their game," said Cassidy. "I think we've seen that with Anton [Khudobin] now, Tuukka [Rask's] not there yet. We've got to find a way. At the start of the year that's what we had said, we want both goalies to play well and give us a chance to win every night. That's what we need. That hasn't changed."
It will be no easy task for the Bruins on Wednesday night with the Eastern Conference-leading Lightning coming to town. Tampa is on top of the Atlantic Division with 34 points and is pacing the National Hockey League in scoring with an average of 3.7 goals per game.
Forwards Steven Stamkos (36 points) and Nikita Kucherov (34) are first and second in the league in scoring, with Kucherov also ranking second in goals (17), one behind Alex Ovechkin.
"Denying them the puck early on was the [Connor] McDavid theory the other day," said Cassidy. "I thought that worked out OK vs. Pittsburgh as well. These guys are a little different. They're a little more tic-tac-toe in the offensive zone, less through the neutral zone, high-end speed.
"They find those seams, so we have to have active sticks and scope out and find them."
Tampa Bay has, however, dropped its last two games and three of its last four.
"I don't think there's any easy games in this league, personally. I haven't witnessed that yet - haven't been around that long," added Cassidy. "Having said that, the last few games haven't gone their way either, so maybe we're catching them at the right time. But at the end of the day we're expecting a real good team to come in here tomorrow and we have to have our A-game."
Tuesday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen - Riley Nash - David Backes
Frank Vatrano - Ryan Spooner - Noel Acciari
Matt Beleskey - Sean Kuraly - Tim Schaller
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Kevan Miller