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Backes counting on better health, luck for himself, Bruins

Forward missed 25 games, had colon surgery last season

by Jessi Pierce / NHL.com Correspondent

EDINA, Minn. -- David Backes expects things to be quite different for himself and the Boston Bruins this season.

"We had a lot of freak injuries, a lot of missed time that was kind of one-off type instances," the 34-year-old forward said Wednesday between games at Da Beauty League, a 4-on-4 summer league for players with connections to Minnesota. "So I'm looking forward to a full season, getting in the trenches, getting in some games and getting deep in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs.

"There's no doubt in my mind, I'd put money on it, that this year is better."

 

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Backes missed 25 games last season, including 17 because of diverticulitis, which is inflammation along the walls of the intestines, and subsequent surgery to remove 10 inches of his colon. He was suspended three games March 7 for interference against Detroit Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen and missed five games after getting cut by a skate March 17 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

He said chances are such things won't repeat this season.

"I put it in perspective," said Backes, who had 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 57 games. "You have colon surgery -- that's not going to happen this year. Chances say you get your leg cut by a skate, that [hadn't] happened in 12 years (as an NHL playe). A suspension, that [had] never happened before.

"So all those things just happening in the course of one season -- my money's on none of that happening this year."

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm5: Backes buries carom for PPG

The Bruins dealt with injuries to other key players, including centers Patrice Bergeron (broken foot, lower body) and David Krejci (back, upper body), who each missed 18 games. Despite that, they finished second in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with 112 points, one behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston lost to Tampa Bay in five games in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

One difference Backes can count on this season is having new teammates. Forwards Riley Nash, Tim Schaller and Austin Czarnik left as free agents, as did defenseman Nick Holden. Forward Rick Nash is an unrestricted free agent undecided whether he'll continue his NHL career. Forward Brian Gionta was not re-signed. Boston signed forwards Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom, and defenseman John Moore.

Beyond those additions, Backes said the Bruins will look to the young players who stepped up last season to do so again.

"It's an opportunity for these guys to kind of take a hold of the team and use their youth, along with the experience we still have and turn it around for the better of the team and to win more games for a deeper run," said the forward, who grew up in Spring Lake, Minnesota. "That's the goal."

Video: How the Bruins are looking for the 2018-19 campaign

Backes pointed to forward Ryan Donato as one of those players. The 22-year-old from Harvard University signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Bruins on March 18 and had nine points (five goals, four assists) in 12 games.

Forwards Jake DeBrusk, 21, who averaged 14:22 of ice time in 70 games, and Anders Bjork, 22, who averaged 12:21 of ice time in 30 games, each also could have a bigger role.

"Ultimately if we have some of those guys who filled in last year elevate their game again this year," Backes said, "we will put ourselves in a good position."

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