By Ian Oland
Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden just revealed to the media that star center Nicklas Backstrom will miss Game Two of the Caps’ first-round series against the New York Islanders due to injury.
Backstrom got hurt after a blindside hit from Anders Lee, where the Islanders forward plowed into the Capitals center late with his head turned. The Swede would finish the first period but did not come out with the team for the start of the second.
“Nick Backstrom will not play tomorrow,” Reirden said. “He’s in protocol.”
Protocol appears to mean that Backstrom, presumptively, suffered a concussion.
Meanwhile, Lars Eller will step back into the lineup for the first time since leaving the bubble last week for the birth of his son Alex and will replace Backstrom in the top six.
The Capitals have gotten increased contributions from Eller during those times, according to the team’s PR.
Over the last four seasons, Nicklas Backstrom or Evgeny Kuznetsov have been out of the lineup for 26 total games. In those 26 games, Eller has 17 points (2g, 15a). Eller established a new career high in the 2019-20 regular season with 39 points (16g, 23a) and recorded a 51.89 face-off percentage, his highest since joining the Capitals in 2016-17. Eller led the Capitals this season with a 55.8 shot attempt percentage at five-on-five (908 shot attempts for, 717 against), which was not only a personal career high for Eller, it was the third-highest percentage by a Capital since the NHL began recording the data in 2009-10. Additionally, it was the sixth-highest percentage by a forward with at least 69 games this season.
“I love those challenges,” Eller said.
“It’s fuel for the fire, in a way. Obviously, we didn’t like the hit,” Tom Wilson said. “We’re going to do our best to play for him. Guys gotta step up at the end of the day. We’ll move forward. It’s never good to see that.”
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