BOSTON — Some NHL players collect pucks. Others hoard sticks. But David Backes acquired memorabilia of a very different nature this season.
“I’ve got a collection of hospital bracelets this year that you shouldn’t have,” Backes said Wednesday at Warrior Ice Arena during the Boston Bruins’ breakup day.
The veteran Bruins forward earned those tokens over the course of a trying season that included a nasty bout of a rare stomach illness called diverticulitis, full-blown surgery on his colon, a leg laceration that also required an operation and a head injury suffered in Game 5 of Boston’s Stanley Cup playoff series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. In all, the ailments kept Backes out of 25 games this season, his most games missed since 2011-12.
Not all of Backes’ hospital trips were bad, though: He and his wife, Kelly, welcomed their second son in December.
“Trying times,” Backes said, “but stronger, I think, character-wise moving forward. I think I gained an appreciation for guys that have injuries that are out longer-term.”
The most concerning of Backes’ health issues was his most recent: a nasty collision with Tampa Bay’s J.T. Miller on Sunday. Backes wouldn’t say whether he sustained a concussion, but if he did, it would be at least the second concussion he’s suffered with the Bruins in the last two seasons.
That’s obviously cause for concern for a player who turned 34 on May 1, especially given the latest research linking concussions to CTE and brain disease. But the 12-year-veteran says he’s recovered well from head injuries in the past and has no immediate plans of slowing down.
“Yeah, all those conversations, thoughts go through your brain,” Backes said. “You’ve got little kids, you’ve got a wife, you’ve got a lot of life to live after you’ve played this game. But we’ll follow what we know, the research.
“(I’m) going to take time, rest, get symptom-free, get back out there and play the same hard game and try to protect myself and try to avoid these, but at some point they’re unavoidable, I think. If you play the game hard enough and long enough, you’re going to get a few concussions. Hopefully the effects aren’t long lasting or life-changing.”
Here are a few other notes from the Bruins’ final media availability of the 2017-18 season:
— Tuukka Rask played in 54 games in the regular season, his lowest total since the 2011-12 campaign, while splitting time with backup Anton Khudobin. The Bruins goaltender insisted he liked that arrangement, even if it took some getting used to.
“You’re starting to play catch-up, you’re kind of running out gas and you have to take time off to kind of rejuvenate yourself — you’re trying to stay away from that, and that’s something that we did this year. I never felt like that,” Rask said.
“But then when you play like three games and you’re still feeling good and you take a game off — yeah, it’s tough. But if you know and you’re mentally prepared for that, I think it’s easier. But I think it worked out great for us. It was a great plan.”
— The Bruins may have exceeded preseason expectations, but veteran forward David Krejci was dreaming much bigger than a second-round playoff exit.
“It still hurts,” Krejci said. “After the first round and the first game in Tampa when we won, you start having little flashbacks from the years, especially 2011 and 2013, when we went all the way. I felt like this was really — this is it. This could be another one of those years. But it just didn’t work out.”
— Riley Nash is one of seven Bruins who will hit restricted free agency this summer. But like his near-namesake, Rick Nash, the veteran forward isn’t ruling out a return to Boston.
“I’d love to come back,” Nash said. “I think they have one of the best teams coming up with a lot of good young players, and then some of the best veterans and leaders in the game.”
— Torey Krug revealed Wednesday he suffered a fractured ankle against the Lightning in Game 4, which makes his ability to get off the ice after his injury that much more impressive. Apparently the Bruins defenseman has his father to thank for that.
“My dad always told me, ‘Don’t lay on the ice and let people pick you up,'” Krug said. “… I’m actually surprised no on their team came near me.”
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
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