Although an optional morning skate is no one’s idea of a strenuous workout, Backes was at least on the ice with some teammates, while wearing a red no-contact jersey, some eight hours before the Bruins were scheduled to face the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden.
Backes has been out since he clunked heads in a collision with Ottawa forward Scott Sabourin on Nov. 2. He’s missed nine games.
“Yeah, it’s good. I mean it was a scary situation obviously for both players there against Ottawa,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “He’s taken some time away from the rink and he’s kind of checking the boxes to get back in the lineup. One of them is to get back on the ice. So that’s step one.”
The Bruins are just 8-2-4 this season when Backes is out of the lineup, 4-2-3 since this latest injury, which had been classified as “upper body” but is most likely yet another concussion. Backes has been concussed no fewer than three times since he joined the Bruins in July 2016.
Boston’s taking a slow approach to the 35-year-old's return.
“This is an individual decision first, right,” Cassidy said. “Then you talk with the team obviously to make sure that everything’s done properly because once you’ve had a few head injuries, you got to be really careful. So our situation, we don’t need to rush anybody back right now, no matter who it is, especially in this situation. So, yes we’re being as careful as we need to be along with the individual’s consent. So that’s where it’s at, and I couldn’t even tell you what the next sort of … until you see him in a practice jersey, which I don’t know when that’ll be yet, that’s something for probably down the road.”
While the Bruins continued to wait for Backes, they expected to have defenseman Torey Krug, who missed five games with an upper-body injury, to return against the Wild. Forward Brett Ritchie was also set to return from missing a game with one game with an upper-body injury.
Par Lindholm, who’s dealing with a laceration he suffered Thursday in the 3-2 win against Buffalo, would be scratched to make room for Ritchie. Urho Vaakanainen would sit for Krug’s return.
Cassidy also decided it was time to get Steven Kampfer back in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 2, so he switched the veteran for rookie Connor Clifton.