BOSTON -- Boston Bruins forward David Backes skated in an optional practice on Monday, eighteen days after undergoing surgery for diverticulitis.
"To be back in the room with them, it's awesome," said Backes, who wore a non-contact jersey. "To be on the ice, to be moving around -- nothing like sitting around and doing a whole lot of nothing for too long to make you feel like you think [you're] never going to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"I don't know what everyone else's expectations were, but when the docs' advice [is] if it doesn't hurt I can continue to progress and add more workload on, circulation's good for healing, so that's my update for the day. It's good to be on the ice."
Backes had surgery on Nov. 2 to remove part of his colon after his second episode of diverticulitis in the span of two months. He had an abscess that required drainage, according to Bruins team internist Dr. David Finn. Because of the likelihood of the diverticulitis returning, Backes opted for the surgery.
The recovery time was set at eight weeks, and it appears that timeline has not changed, despite his early return to the ice. Backes, who signed a five-year contract with the Bruins with annual average value of $6 million on July 1, 2016, did say that he hoped contact could return soon, perhaps even on Tuesday.
"I haven't been notified that the timeline has changed at all," Backes said. "Just going to keep putting in the work. For me, it's let's start doing something as soon as it feels good so that we stop the regression and stop the bleeding -- that's a terrible term to use in this instance -- but to stop going backwards."
It came as a bit of a surprise to coach Bruce Cassidy that Backes was back skating, but he was happy to see the forward out on the ice.
"We were told six-to-eight weeks, so I assumed there would be more recovery time, but it's good, good news," Cassidy said. "I don't know that anything's changed in that matter but at least he's out there getting his conditioning back. … I'm just happy to see him out there. He looks good, getting back at it."
Backes, who has one assist in five games and hasn't played since Oct. 30, has progressed from the point where he was drained after riding on the stationary bike, or chasing after his young daughter, or helping out his eight-months pregnant wife. But he feels like he's on the upswing. And there was never an ultimate goal, he said. They always worked day by day to see where each day brought him and where he could go from there.
"I think it gets better every day," Backes said. "The more that I seem to work, the better that my recovery is and I'm able to do more the next day. Those are all positive signs. I've got to give a lot of thanks to the surgeons and the docs that I've been working with and did an excellent job and took extra time, knowing that I am an athlete and time is of the essence, to hopefully get back, if there is any way to get back sooner than later.
"Being able to skate with your buddies, the morale-lift you get from that, it's awesome. Even though it wasn't a full-team skate today, to have 12, 14 bodies on the ice, pass pucks to other guys, smile and give them a hard time at times, that's really fun and it, I think, adds a little more good feeling in my stomach."