Nicklas Backstrom entered the NHL’s concussion protocol after taking a late hit from New York’s Anders Lee in Game One. Absent from practice and all of Game Two, Backstrom participated in practice on Saturday, according to head coach Todd Reirden.
“Everyone was on the ice today”, Reirden said. “Including [Nicklas Backstrom] at the end there.”
But Reirden was reluctant to commit to Backstrom’s status or the lineup for Sunday, which Reirden repeatedly called “the most important game of the year.”
Discipline has been an issue for the team so far this series. Forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana have each been benched for portions of Game One and Game Two, respectively. But Reirden would not elaborate on any possible changes.
“You’ll learn more as we get closer to game time,” Reirden said of the team’s lineup for Sunday.
Reirden described busy video-review sessions with the team in the wake of Washington’s back-to-back losses to New York. “Sometimes you look at [the video] and you try to solve the problems that are happening, but you don’t know you can because you’ve played the best hockey you can. That’s certainly not the case with this team.”
In both games of the series so far, the Capitals have allowed goals from the Islanders in gluts, which Reirden chalks up to a lack of focus.
“We were disappointed in how our mental and physical focus was for sixty minutes,” Reirden said. “You expect more from the guy next to you.”
TJ Oshie described the same phenomenon. “There’s been a lot of incidences where we make really simple mental errors that have ended up in the back of our net,” Oshie told the press on Saturday afternoon. “We gotta do a lot better job of protecting ourselves and taking care of each other on the ice.”
Defender Brenden Dillon suggested the solution lies in cooperation among teammates.
“It’s collectively working together.”
Down two games to none, the Capitals take on the Islanders Sunday at noon.
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