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Need to Know: Bruins vs. Sabres

Backes set to return as Boston looks for fourth straight win

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

BOSTON - David Backes will return from his three-game suspension on Saturday night as the Bruins take on the Buffalo Sabres in another divisional showdown at TD Garden. Backes will find himself in a new spot in the lineup, as the right wing alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci on Boston's second line.

"Haven't seen too much of him on our right," said DeBrusk. "To have a right-handed shot on the right side of the ice will be something different. Obviously looking to help him have a good return and do anything we can to get some chemistry going."

Video: DeBrusk discusses new winger on his line

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he is looking to solidify his line combinations a bit more as the Bruins enter the second half and hopes that Backes can bring a little jump and jam to the top six. The third line, meanwhile, is back to the college trio of Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Danton Heinen.

"We are trying to pin down a little bit more consistent lines," said Cassidy. "But I think that one, it's fair to say, is a work in progress. David's fresh coming back, he'll be excited to play up in the lineup a little bit. The kids are together - I didn't mind that line. When you're home you can control a bit of that matchup. That's a little bit of the reasoning."

Backes sat for three games because of an illegal hit to head on New Jersey's Blake Colmean on Dec. 27. It was the veteran forward's second suspension for an illegal check in the last nine months (he was banned three games in March for a hit on Detroit's Frans Nielsen). Nevertheless, Backes does not plan on altering his game any further.

"I think I've really adjusted my game to fit with the way the rules are," said Backes. "There was no malice intent to the hit, so if I was headhunting and looking for some blood, I think maybe I'd need to look in the mirror, but I don't think that was the case.

"We're trying to tie the game up late, just a little ill-time in my hit. I think if I take hitting out of my game I'll be pretty useless in pretty quick order, so I've got to play my game and let the chips fall where they will."

Video: Cassidy talks return of Backes, matchup with Buffalo

Opposing View

The Bruins and Sabres are meeting for the fourth and final time this season. Boston has won two of the first three meetings, including a come-from-behind overtime win in Buffalo last Saturday. The teams are currently tied with 50 points apiece, though the Bruins have leapfrogged Buffalo into third place in the Atlantic Division.

Buffalo will be without captain and leading scorer Jack Eichel (49 points), who is missing his second straight game with an upper-body injury. Linus Ullmark (9-1-3, 2.73 GAA, .922 save percentage) will start in goal.

"It's a big game for us. It's a team that's very tight [with us] in the standings," said Torey Krug. "Obviously you don't have your star player playing, but they're a great team. They've got way better depth than they've had in the past and they work extremely hard.

"And they're getting good goaltending as well. It's a good matchup, it's always a tough game. We're chomping at the bit to get going."

Video: Cassidy talks return of Backes, matchup with Buffalo

Going for Gold

The Bruins will have two prospects in the gold-medal game at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. Goalie Kyle Keyser and the United States will take on defenseman Urho Vaakanainen and Finland at 8 p.m. ET on NHL Network.

Vaakanainen had one assist in Finland's 6-1 victory over Switzerland in Friday's semifinal. Keyser did not play in Team USA' s 2-1 win over Russia.

Bruins forward prospect Pavel Shen will try to help Russia to the bronze medal against Switzerland at 4 p.m. Both games are on NHL Network.

McAvoy Getting Closer

Charlie McAvoy did not skate on Saturday morning, but Cassidy said he the young blue liner should be back on the ice early next week.

"I don't have a real good update on how much time he'll need on the ice," said Cassidy. "But when he's on the ice, he's a lot closer….would hope that later in the week he's a lot closer, whether that's Thursday or Saturday."

Saturday's Projected Lineup

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - David Backes
Ryan Donato - Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson - Danton Heinen
Sean Kuraly - Noel Acciari - Chris Wagner

Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug - John Moore
Matt Grzelcyk - Kevan Miller

Tuukka Rask
Jaroslav Halak

Scratches: Steven Kampfer and Colby Cave

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