Birthday boy Backlund remaining positive after yet another injury
Flames centre might not be out long, though, after suffering cracked bone in his foot from blocking a shot
Truth be told, Mikael Backlund fought the temptation to feel more than a tad sorry for himself Friday night upon limping out of the Scotiabank Saddledome with his right foot in a walking cast.
After all, the Calgary Flames centre had every reason to wallow in self-pity after suffering yet another injury in the third period of a 6-3 victory over the Nashville Predators.
But at the tail end of a rough day at the office, Backlund snapped out of his funk upon seeing several familiar faces.
“I went home and saw my girlfriend and my dogs,” Backlund said on Sunday, his 24th birthday. “They gave me some energy. We had a couple friends over, and they cheered me up.
“I was trying to stay positive. Through tough times, it’s nice to have family. My girlfriend’s been great to me, pushing me the last few days to be positive.”
On Saturday, Backlund received (relatively) positive word from the doctor. X-Rays showed a cracked bone and bruising in Backlund’s right foot courtesy of a Kevin Klein slapper.
The prognosis? He could return to the lineup as early as Monday in Dallas — a welcome development indeed considering the Swedish pivot missed 14 games already this season with a wrenched knee.
“It’s not great news, but it’s not bad news,” said head coach Bob Hartley. “The way he’s been playing for us, he brings speed to centre . . .
“He brings a nice element to our hockey club.”
Due to a string of calamities over the last 18 months — including a broken finger from a slash in practice and separated shoulder suffered roaring to the defence of Blake Comeau — Backlund is drawing fire from some fans as a fragile player.
But Hartley sees nothing but positive in a guy willing to sacrifice his body in the dying minutes of a 6-3 game.
“The last one on Friday night, that’s bad luck, but that’s paying the price,” Hartley said. “That’s the unfortunate part of our business. He got hit by the puck on the skate, and he got the injury. In this business, it’s about paying the price. The young man is starting to do this on a very consistent basis. That’s we’re asking of him.
“So yes, it’s unfortunate, but he’ll get better.”
After a shaky 2010-11 season, Backlund vowed to become more resilient between the ears. He hired a mental performance coach in Calgary and also worked on that part of his game with his personal trainer back in Sweden.
As such, the six-foot, 198-pounder feels better equipped to deal with what sometimes feels like wave after wave of adversity.
“When things like this happen, it’s not the end of the world,” he said, philosophically, still wearing the boot on his right foot. “You’ve just got to stay positive . . .
“I’ve just got to try to have the mindset to always be positive. No matter what, the sun’s going to come up the next day. Life goes on. It’s not the end of the world, even though you always want to play.”
In 12 games this season, Backlund has collected four goals and seven points. He is riding a three-game point streak.
“You feel bad for the guy,” Comeau said. “He’s had some tough luck with injuries last year and this year.
“He just adds that depth down the middle. We have some guys playing centre who aren’t natural centremen. So to have a guy like Backs who is a responsible player and plays hard every night — it’s a big loss when he’s not in the lineup.”
Maturing as a hockey player in the glare of public eye, Backlund takes refuge in the simple things at home including his two spaniel-miniature poodle crosses: Lily and Dexter.
“They were just scared of the crutches,” Backlund said of the canine greeting he received Friday night. “But it was awesome. They always cheer you up. I love dogs — all animals, actually but dogs especially.
“No matter what, they’re always happy when you come home.”
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