During today’s 3-1 win, completing a home-and-home sweep of the Buffalo Sabres (as well as their first season sweep of Buffalo in 45 years), the Boston Bruins also found time to release an update on the status of veteran forward David Backes. Backes was injured in the Bruins game in Buffalo on Thursday night after taking a high, hard hit from behind from the Sabres’ William Carrier. The Bruins quickly announced that Backes would not return to the game with an “upper body injury”. They have now confirmed what was assumed, that the big winger suffered a concussion. While there is currently no time frame for his return, Backes will enter the NHL’s concussion protocol and will simply be considered “out indefinitely.”
Backes signed a five year deal with the Bruins when free agency opened on July 1st this summer. The contract holds an annual $6MM cap hit, as the Bruins essentially replaced Loui Eriksson, who left Boston to sign a similar deal with the Vancouver Canucks this off-season. A tough, intelligent veteran, Backes was brought in to make the Bruins a tougher team to play against, as evidenced by the drastic improvement in team defense between this season and last. Backes has nine goals and ten assists in 33 games thus far in his first season in Boston.
Backes has had an incredible NHL career, with 479 points to go along with 1,000 penalty minutes in 760 games, spent mostly with the St. Louis Blues. Since earning a full-time role with the Blues, Backes has never played less than 72 games in a season, and that career-low has only occurred once. However, Backes has quietly had his fair share of concussion history as well, and his 72-game mark may now be in jeopardy with yet another concussion. Backes already missed a few games earlier this season, when he had surgery to remove an olecranon bursa from his elbow, and now could miss an extended period of time as he recovers from a head injury. Concussions are unpredictable in their recovery time, as Backes has never missed much time in the past, but Bruins teammate John-Michael Liles has been out for over a month with a concussion and former Bruin Marc Savard was forced to retire as the result of multiple concussions. With Frank Vatrano back in the fold and looking good playing in Backes’ spot on Boston’s second line alongside David Krejci and Ryan Spooner, the Bruins can afford to ease Backes into the lineup when he is ready. While there is not enough information yet to predict when exactly Backes will return, it is a safe assumption that the Bruins will take their time before welcoming he, Liles, and Matt Beleskey back into the lineup some time in February, just in time for the stretch run. Until then, the Bruins can rely on their depth in Providence, the hottest team in the AHL, and could potentially look into a trade for another forward for insurance.