BOSTON -Bruce Cassidy will have a number of changes to his lineup on Saturday night as the Bruins aim for their third straight victory when they host the Minnesota Wild. Torey Krug will make his return to the lineup after missing the last five games with an upper-body injury and Brett Ritchie will also be back in after sitting out six of the last seven contests with an infection issue.
Steven Kampfer, who hasn't played since Nov. 2, will also sub into the lineup for Connor Clifton alongside Matt Grzelcyk on Boston's third defense pairing. With Krug returning, Urho Vaakanainen is the odd-man out on the back end and will likely head back to Providence.
Par Lindholm is out after suffering a gash to his leg on Thursday night against Buffalo that required 18 stitches. "He might have been the guy [out] anyway, but this is a little bit of precaution too, yesterday not even skating," said Cassidy.
In other injury news, David Backes took part in an optional morning skate on Saturday donning a maroon non-contact jersey. It is his first time on the ice with the team since suffering an upper-body injury on Nov. 2 during a frightening collision with Ottawa forward Scott Sabourin.
"It's good, a scary situation obviously for both players there against Ottawa," said Cassidy. "He's taken some time away from the rink and he's kind of checking the boxes to get back in the lineup now, get back out on the ice. That's step one."
Cassidy said that Backes - and the team - is taking a cautious approach during the rehab process given the veteran winger's history of head injuries.
"This is an individual decision first," said Cassidy. "Then you talk with the team, obviously, to make sure everything is done properly because once you've had a few head injuries, you've got to be really careful. Our situation, we don't need to rush anybody back right now, no matter who it is, especially in this situation.
"We're being as careful as we need to be, along with the individual's consent. That's where it's at. I couldn't even tell you what the next [step is] until you see him in a practice jersey, which I don't know when that will be yet."
Video: Krug Makes His Return to the Bruins Lineup vs. MIN
The Wild, (9-11-2, 20 points) sitting last in the Central Division, has played well of late, carrying a four-game point streak (3-0-1) into tonight's contest. They also have points in seven of nine games.
Minnesota is led offensively by veterans Eric Staal (6-10-16 in 22 games) and Jason Zucker (7-8-15). Former Bruins forward Ryan Donato has a goal and two assists in 20 games this season.
"I think they'll come ready to compete," said Anders Bjork. "They've got some skill, some good hockey players on that team. They're trying to turn their ship around a little bit. It should be a good game. We know that too and we're prepared for it."
Backup goalie Alex Stalock (5-3-0, 2.56 GAA, .913 save percentage) is expected to start for Minnesota with No. 1 netminder Devan Dubnyk away from the team for a family issue.
Saturday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Chris Wagner
Anders Bjork - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Brett Ritchie
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Steven Kampfer