Photo credit: Rob Carr
After three long games, Nicklas Backstrom will return to the lineup after his hip surgery in late may. Last year’s NHL leader in assists will play on the second line alongside Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams. He was cleared for contact by his doctor on Monday.
“We actually decided this a couple of days ago,” Backstrom said Saturday. “I’ve been feeling good and no setbacks. I feel like I’ve been trying my best to get back as fast as possible with no rush. It’s been working out well. Hopefully, it’s gonna be a good one tonight.”
“Right now it’s gonna be static,” Trotz said when he was asked if Backstrom would stay on the second line. “There’s nothing wrong with, based on the last game, with the Ovi, Oshie, and Kuzy line. That gives us lots of flexibility.”
Backstrom’s insertion on the second will kick Andre Burakovsky, who has one point this season, to the fourth line where he will play with Brooks Laich and Chandler Stephenson. The third line of Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle, and Tom Wilson will remain the same. Trotz said Burakovsky will be a “swing” player who may move around the lineup, especially if Backstrom gets fatigued.
“We’re gonna start him there,” Trotz said of Burakovsky. “It doesn’t mean he’s gonna end there.”
“He’s a good player,” Trotz added. “He won’t be on the fourth line too long.”
Burakovsky will switch from center to the wing, his natural position.
“I’ve been playing wing my whole life,” Burakovsky said. “It feels good actually.”
The Capitals roster now strands at the NHL max of 23 players. They have the fourth highest payroll in the league, with just $435,977 in cap space according to General Fanager. Trotz said the team will decide whether to send someone down after Saturday’s game against Carolina. Michael Latta, Nate Schmidt, and Stan Galiev will be scratched against the Hurricanes.
“I’m not a big proponent of 23,” Trotz said. “If a player is not playing very often he’s not developing. That’s not really what we want.”
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