Neely defends Backes contract, which still has four years left


David Backes put up some decent numbers this season, scoring 17 goals with 21 assists in 74 games.

He had a decent postseason as well, with one goal and three assists in six games.

But at 33 years old, Backes’ game is not what it used to be. And with four years left on a $30 million contract, it’s possible the Bruins could end up with an anchor on their payroll.

Today, B’s president Cam Neely was asked what he thought of Backes’ first year in Boston.

“David had a hard time adjusting,” said Neely. “He mentioned that at the end of year. It was more of a challenge for him to come to a new city and a new team, to get to know 22, 24 other players. That took a while for him to get adjusted.

“I feel like David is really built for the type of playoff hockey you have to play to go deep. He’s a great leader. He’s helped the young kids a ton. If he could pick up a little bit of a step in his game, which he’s going to work on in the offseason, I think that would be beneficial for him and us.”

Read more: Blues explain letting Backes go

It remains to be seen if Backes can find a way to get faster this summer. Getting slower typically goes hand-in-hand with getting older, and with 801 NHL games on his odometer, plus 55 more in the playoffs, Backes has skated a lot of hard miles in a very tough league.

“I like his physicality,” said Neely. “I like the fact that he’ll stand in front of the net and pay the price to be there. I think, offensive-wise, we got kind of what we expected from him. Would we like a little more? Yeah. But I think all the things that he brings, that whole package, was a welcomed addition.”

Related: Sweeney shares offseason plans for Bruins

Crosby has concussion, but Penguins ‘optimistic’ he’ll be back soon


Sidney Crosby has a concussion. He won’t play tomorrow in Game 4 of the Capitals-Penguins series in Pittsburgh.

“We will evaluate him from there,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said today.

“He’s very upbeat and positive,” Sullivan added. “We’re very optimistic and hopeful we’ll have him back in a timely fashion.”

Crosby was hurt last night when he took a cross-check to side of his head from Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen. An instant earlier, Crosby had taken an Alex Ovechkin stick to the back of his head.

Ovechkin was not penalized, but Niskanen received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Crosby stayed down for a while and had to be helped off the ice. He did not return to the game.

“He will go through the protocols that we always put our guys through when they’ve been diagnosed with a concussion,” Sullivan said, per the Washington Post. “The nature of these things is that they are all very different. Sometimes they come around quickly, other times they don’t.”

Crosby, of course, has a well-documented history with concussions. He missed six games in October with one. He missed many more games earlier in his career with the same injury.

Read more: Capitals, Penguins reflect on Crosby’s ‘gut-wrenching’ injury

The Penguins also announced that Crosby’s sometimes linemate, Conor Sheary, has a concussion. Sheary was hurt last night when he collided with teammate Patric Hornqvist.

No word when Sheary might be able to play again, but he did skate this morning on his own.

The Penguins lead the Capitals, 2-1, in the series.

Related: Trotz calls accusations against Caps ‘ridiculous’

Glass could replace Buchnevich for Rangers


Alain Vigneault wouldn’t say for sure, but don’t be surprised if Tanner Glass replaces Pavel Buchnevich in the Rangers’ lineup tonight in New York.

The first clue was Buchnevich’s ice time Saturday in Ottawa — just 5:46 in a game that went to double overtime. Buchnevich, the 22-year-old rookie winger, didn’t play at all in sudden death. The game ended with Jean-Gabriel Pageau‘s fourth goal of the contest, giving the Senators a 6-5 victory and a 2-0 lead in the series.

The second clue came at this morning’s “extras skate.” Tanner Glass left it early, while Buchnevich stayed on.

Glass hasn’t played since Game 3 of the Rangers’ first-round series against Montreal. He was replaced by Buchnevich for the final three games (all New York wins), and he remained out of the lineup for the first two games in Ottawa (both losses).

If Glass plays tonight, his coach will know what to expect from the physical veteran.

“When Tanner played, there was no surprise to his game and what he brings to our lineup,” said Vigneault. “If he plays, he plays a certain way.”

As for Buchnevich’s ice time on Saturday, Vigneault said that had more to do with the other Rangers players than anything else.

“In the last game in Ottawa, I felt we had nine, 10 guys that I thought were playing real well,” he said. “I gave them the minutes and I thought they had some good looks and played a real strong game. Just ended up on the wrong side of the win column.”

Buchnevich wasn’t the only Rangers forward to get benched in overtime. Fourth-line center Oscar Lindberg didn’t see the ice either.

Trotz calls accusations against Caps ‘ridiculous’


Barry Trotz thinks it’s “ridiculous” that anyone would accuse the Washington Capitals of intentionally injuring Sidney Crosby.

He called that sort of commentary “noise.”

“It’s like a car accident,” the Caps’ head coach told reporters this morning. “You have your side how it happened, and the other person will have his side.”

Trotz was obviously talking about that column by Rob Rossi, a Pittsburgh reporter who wrote that:

1. Alex Ovechkin should be suspended for the rest of the playoffs for his slash on Crosby.

2. Matt Niskanen should be suspended for the rest of the second round for his crosscheck on Crosby.

3. After losing the first two games of the series in Washington, the Capitals got together and hatched a plan to take out Crosby. That plan came together last night in Pittsburgh.

It was quite the take.

Oh, and it was Rossi in last night’s post-game press conference who sarcastically asked Trotz if Ovechkin’s slash was a “hockey play,” the same phrase Trotz had used to describe Niskanen’s check on Crosby.

Trotz responded by calling it a “terrible question.”

As everyone knows by now, Ovechkin was not penalized on the play, and Niskanen will not be suspended.

The one thing we don’t yet know is when Crosby will be back. Game 4 goes tomorrow in Pittsburgh. The Pens lead the Caps, 2-1.

As for Rossi, he went on TSN 1050 (Toronto) radio this morning to defend his column.

“I think you have to take it in the prism of I’ve covered a lot concussion-related incidents in my time around the Penguins since Sidney Crosby came into the league,” Rossi said. “I have been consistent, whether it’s Matt Cooke or whether it’s Chris Kunitz, Alex Ovechkin, I err on the side of severe discipline even if it’s accidental or incidental contact because I just don’t think this league or these teams take head injuries seriously.”

But Rossi also seemed to walk back his accusation that the Caps’ meeting following Game 2 was about taking out Crosby. (“If they say it wasn’t about eliminating Crosby, the Capitals are liars,” Rossi wrote.)

“What was discussed in that meeting, I don’t know,” Rossi told TSN 1050. “I never claimed to have intel about what the meeting was about. Obviously, the job of a columnist is to be provocative. That’s what I was going for there.”

Related: Capitals, Penguins reflect on Crosby’s ‘gut-wrenching’ injury

Preds getting offense from the defense


By taking care of matters in their end of the ice, the Nashville Predators’ defensive corps is earning the right to contribute to matters on the offensive end.

That was evident again on Sunday when the Predators bounced the St. Louis Blues, 3-1, in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal at Bridgestone Arena to grab a 2-1 series lead. Ryan Ellis scored the first goal while fellow defenseman Roman Josi tallied the final marker.

P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm each registered assists, giving the blue-liners a combined seven goals and 14 assists in seven playoff games. Ellis has scored in six straight games and leads Nashville scorers in the postseason with eight points off three goals and five assists.

St. Louis is well aware that in Game 4 Tuesday night, it will have to do a better job of accounting for the Predators’ defensemen and their ability to produce points.

“We knew that was going to be a challenge walking into this series,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said, “and obviously that’s a part of our game we’re going to have to be better at.”

Read more: Preds proving preseason hype was warranted

Subban dominated Game 1 with three point blasts, leading to a goal and two assists in Nashville’s 4-3 win. Ellis produced a goal and a helper in Game 2, staking the Predators to a 2-1 lead before St. Louis rallied in the third period for a 3-2 decision.

Nashville’s skill on the backline came to the forefront throughout Sunday’s game. The Ellis-Josi pairing and the Ekholm-Subban duo combined for 20 shot attempts, with Josi firing eight times on net.

“If we get a chance as a D corps, there are a lot of guys who can skate and we try to join the rush and make something happen,” Josi said.

A talented top 4

The Blues need to keep things from happening. Better puck possession would be one way. The Predators won 39 of 63 faceoffs Sunday, the second time in the series they dominated St. Louis in the circle.

More discipline is a second avenue to success. After avoiding the penalty box in Game 2, aside from a coincidental minor in the third period, the Blues took a half-dozen minors on Sunday. Two occurred in the first 8 1/2 minutes of the second period when Nashville buzzed their zone at will.

“You’re giving them and their skill players the opportunity to field the puck and make plays,” St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo said. “They start to feel more confident. So I think that certainly makes a difference.”

If the Blues can earn more possession time and keep penalties to a minimum, they could return to the formula that enabled them to control long stretches of Game 1 and 2 when playing 5-on-5. Any deviation from that, particularly against an opponent playing at its best with a raucous crowd behind it, is going to create issues.

And chances are those issues are going to come from Nashville’s defensemen.

“The more you have the puck,” Subban summed up, “the less defense you play.”