David Backes gets top line duty vs. Red Wings
Both Jack Studnicka and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson made the most of their opportunities centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak in China. But with the regular season a mere one week away, the Bruins will let a veteran handle top-line duty against the Red Wings in their second to last preseason tilt.
David Backes, who has skated with the talented Marchand-Pastrnak duo before, will slot in at first line center Wednesday evening at TD Garden.
First line center and assistant captain Patrice Bergeron, who is still hopeful for opening night in the nation’s capital, is still recovering from off-season groin surgery and a recent bout with back spasms. The four-time Selke winner will resume skating activities on Thursday and could practice for the first time on Friday according to coach Bruce Cassidy.
The idea behind Backes moving back to center for at least one night makes sense, especially if Bergeron misses his third straight opening night. The Marchand-Backes-Pastrnak trio totaled 18 points in the first three games of the 2016-17 season without Bergeron. The Bruins went 2-1 in that span.
Two years later and 10 pounds lighter, Backes is looking forward to another go-around with Marchand and Pastrnak.
“We’ll give it a whirl,” Backes said following the Bruins’ pregame skate Wednesday morning. “[We’ll] see if a little lighter and a little more mobil[ity] makes me effective there. Obviously, [I’m] playing with some good players there, so give them the pucks, try to give them some space and let them do what they do so well, and we’ll see what works out.
“Obviously I’m not replacing Bergy [Bergeron], but hopefully he’s ready for Game 1. If not, then we’ll need to look at all the options.”
Backes returned to wing once Bergeron returned to the lineup two years ago. He settled in that right-wing role for his first two years in Boston.
But could Wednesday also showcase Backes’ return to center this year — and not just in place of Bergeron? Riley Nash’s departure leaves a third line center void. Backes, Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic and Ryan Donato are suitable candidates to fill that vacancy.
“I haven’t had the discussion yet, but this is probably in that introduction to that possibility,” Backes said about moving back to center.
“I’m speculating just like you may be at this point, but I think it’s maybe worth one more look so we’ll see if that’s a realistic expectation because you need to build through the middle and through your back end. The back end is solid, but with a few injuries up the middle maybe we’ll need a little bit more help there.”
Fourth-liner Sean Kuraly is another injured center who won’t suit up against the Red Wings. This leaves Backes as the only NHL experienced center entering Wednesday’s exhibition.
Both Noel Acciari (sports hernia) and Torey Krug (ankle), expect to make their preseason debuts. Both missed the first two weeks of the preseason recovering from their off-season surgeries.
Off-season signee Jaroslav Halak will get the start in net. Tuukka Rask will likely start Saturday’s preseason finale against the Flyers.
Here’s a look at the Bruins’ projected lineup:
Jake DeBrusk-Forsbacka Karlsson-Danton Heinen
Peter Cehlarik-Trent Frederic-Lee Stempniak
Daniel Winnik-Jordan Szwarz-Noel Acciari
John Moore-Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug-Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen-Steven Kampfer