LAS VEGAS - The last time the Bruins visited the Vegas Strip, it was David Backes who left town as the hero, notching a shootout winner last February to give Boston its seventh straight victory.
On Tuesday night against the Golden Knights, the Black & Gold will be searching for their third consecutive win to kick off the 2019-20 campaign - and they'll have Backes back in the lineup to help the cause.
After sitting out Saturday's win over Arizona as a healthy scratch, the veteran winger will slide in on the right side of Boston's fourth line with Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly.
"You've seen for his career…he's strong on the wall, he's a big body, he's good in front of the net, good with his hands. He brings the line together, he's a leader," Kuraly said following Tuesday's pregame skate at T-Mobile Arena.
"I think the list goes on. He's a guy that when he's on your team and on your line, you're just happy to have him and helps push the game in your direction."
Video: Backes slots back into lineup
Coach Bruce Cassidy was pleased with Backes' play in the B's Opening Night victory in Dallas, but with Brad Marchand and David Krejci banged up heading into Arizona, he opted for some insurance and instead went with the versatile wing/center Par Lindholm.
"David was good in Game 1, hopefully he picks up where he left off and plays a solid game," Cassidy said following Tuesday's morning skate at T-Mobile Arena. "Go out, do your job, finish some hits when they're there, hopefully make the plays that are in front of you, help that line with puck possession in the O-zone. I thought he did those things the other night in Dallas."
Backes has had success playing with Kuraly in the past and hopes their similar straight-line styles will once again pay dividends on Tuesday night.
"We're all simple, hard-nosed type of players," said Backes. "We know pucks are gonna get deep, we're gonna work it down there. I think against Dallas we had quite a few momentum turning shifts when they were needed, responsible defensively and then hopefully add something on the offensive side of things too after you pin a line in their zone for extended time."
Cassidy believes that Backes can provide that offensive spark by being the line's "finisher."
"They're a line that's not your typical line rush, scoring group, like Krejci's or Bergy's…they're probably more forecheck, create a turnover, get it to the net. But that's when the small area plays come in handy," said Cassidy.
"He could be a finisher. He's got a good shot, David. When he's got time to get the shot off, he's pretty good at beating goaltenders. He's got to create the ice for him to do that and that's the challenge for that line when you're not a line-rush line."
Video: Cassidy speaks ahead of game vs. Vegas
Back in the Middle
With Lindholm in the lineup for the first two games of the season, Kuraly was pushed to the wing - an unfamiliar spot for Boston's normal fourth-line center - but with Backes getting the call on Tuesday in Vegas, Kuraly will shift back to the middle.
"Just a couple of spots you find yourself in on the ice," Kuraly said when asked what's different about playing wing. "I think some are advantageous to me and some are new and would like to feel them a little more to get used to it. But back in the middle tonight and go with the flow…give the best I can and try to keep building on what's happened so far.
"I think two games [down] - not bad, but definitely a lot of room for improvement. For myself, I'm not going to try to push too hard and do things that are out of my ability or out of my role."
Video: Kuraly speaks in Vegas
Like the Bruins, Vegas is looking to start the new season 3-0. The Golden Knights have opened 2019-20 with back-to-back wins (4-1 and 5-1) over their Pacific Division rivals, the San Jose Sharks - the team that ousted them from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a memorable seven-game, first-round series last spring.
With Vegas already putting nine goals on the board, the Bruins know that continuing their strong defensive efforts (one goal allowed in two games) will be crucial.
"It's gonna be a good battle," said Kuraly. "Where we always start is our defensive game and we want to be really good defensively. If they want a win, let's make them beat us and not beat ourselves and I think that's gonna be our focus - play solid offensively, be strong, make strong decisions."
Mark Stone paces the Golden Knights with four points (goal, three assists) through two games. It will be the first time the Bruins face off with Stone since the winger was traded to Vegas at last season's deadline.
"They're a good team with or without him, he's just another good player you've got to account for," said Cassidy. "You saw that in Ottawa, he was always a guy that was a thorn in our side. Real good defensive player, probably doesn't get enough credit for his ability to play away from the puck, big body in front, good shot."
Marc-Andre Fleury (2-0-0, 1.00 GAA, .965 save percentage) will start in goal for the Golden Knights.
Video: B:60 | Staying Hot In Vegas
Tuesday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Karson Kuhlman
Danton Heinen - Charlie Coyle - Brett Ritchie
Chris Wagner - Sean Kuraly - David Backes
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
Scratches: Par Lindholm, Steven Kampfer, Joakim Nordstrom (IR)