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Mitch's Sports Report: Backes Nets Two In Bruins Win; The Case Against Thursday Night Football

David Backes is back, far earlier than expected, and last night in Boston the rugged winger welcomed his own return to the score sheet, potting his first two goals of the season in the Bruins' 6-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

Backes has had some bad luck to follow a fairly bad first season when he signed with Boston as a free agent last year after many successful seasons as captain and power forward with the St. Louis Blues. He struggled to find his game with Boston last year and this season committed to losing some weight and emphasizing the speed game, which is where the NHL is these days and Backes was primed for a bounce back year when he was diagnosed early on with diverticulitis, an inflammation of his intestinal tract that eventually led to surgery to remove a section of his colon. Backes was expected to be out for at least eight weeks, but only ended up missing twelve games and those two goals he scored last night had to feel like yet more weight off his frame. He tipped in a shot from the point by Riley Nash and his second goal was unassisted, an excellent individual effort in which he stole the puck from Coyotes defenseman Alex Oligoski inside the Arizona blue line and walked in all alone to rifle home the goal.

Brad Marchand also tallied for Boston just fifteen seconds into the game off a one-time feed from David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask made 20 saves in net for the win, Boston's seventh in their last nine games.

The Calgary Flames got two goals from Sean Monahan, the second one in overtime for a game winner to beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 at the Bell Centre last night. Daniel Carr and Phillip Danault scored for the Habs in the losing effort, the second defeat in a row for the Canadiens.

The Philadelphia Flyers have a ways to go to negate the effects of a ten game losing skid, but they're trending in the right direction, now winners of three straight after beating the Canucks 4-1 in Vancouver last night.

When your starting quarterback throws three interceptions in a game, you can usually count on that game being a loss, but despite the three picks thrown last night by Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons survived thanks to an interception of their own with time winding down to beat the New Orleans Saints 20-17 in Atlanta.

Ryan was able to overcome the three turnovers to drive the Falcons downfield just close enough for kicker Matt Bryant to nail a 52-yard field goal with just over three minutes left in regulation to give Atlanta that three point lead, but the Saints looked like they would storm right back to win it when Drew Brees engineered a drive that brought New Orleans all the way to the Atlanta ten yard line with just over a minute left to go. Brees also kept that drive going with a quarterback sneak on a fourth and one, but his pass into the end zone on the ensuing set of downs was picked off by Atlanta's Deion Jones, who made a great leaping grab to end the Saints threat and secure the Atlanta victory, and it was a big one for the Falcons who improve to 8-5 and keep their playoff hopes alive even though they're in third place in the NFC south behind Carolina and the still-in-first Saints, who drop to 9-4.

One other note, and that's a not insignificant comment from Drew Brees after the games, who made mention of the fact that no fewer than six players were injured in this game, and he blamed the Thursday night schedule that each week has at least one team working on short rest from a previous Sunday contest. This is yet another example of the NFL choosing revenue over player safety and honestly, as good as this game was, do we really need Thursday Night football? There's already the ingrained into the culture Monday night game, but wedging in another game on Thursday nights just to rake in more advertising dollars is yet another sign of the uncaring nature of the lords who run the NFL, who see the players as little more than ATM machines in helmets. Brees was right to speak out against it.

In the NBA, a pretty big name with a big body to boot got traded yesterday, with the Philadelphia 76ers sending Jahlil Okafor to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for forward Trevor Booker. Okafor was the number three overall pick in the 2015 draft but had been unhappy in Philly, publicly expressing his desire for a trade and the Sixers, with plenty of young stars filling their roster, decided to grant that request. Okafor is a 6'11, 260-pound center with a lot of upside but he'd been averaging just five points per game while seeing little playing time in Philadelphia. He's due to get a lot more in Brooklyn.

And some hot stove baseball news, the Seattle Mariners have acquired speedy second baseman Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins in exchange for a trio of prospects.