By Ian Oland
We may only be in the preseason, but Peter Laviolette’s dodginess is already in midseason form.
Wednesday, with the Capitals’ Home Opener against the New York Rangers a week away, Laviolette was asked if injured star center Nicklas Backstrom would play. Backstrom has not skated or taken the ice during Training Camp, rehabbing a hip injury that gave him issues late last season.
“I’m not going to answer that because I don’t know the answer to that,” Laviolette said. “It’s still listed as week-to-week. You guys see that he’s not out here, yet. We’ve said that we’re going to do the right thing and make sure that Nick is healthy, and I can’t answer that one right now.”
To recap, Laviolette is telling the media that he doesn’t know, before trying to help them read between the lines, which seems to indicate he knows more than he lets on.
Backstrom, for his part, kept things vague as well when speaking to the media for the first time on Saturday.
“It’s getting better and better,” Backstrom said of his hip. “We’re not rushing it here, we’re looking at it long term, not short term to make sure it’s ready before I start skating. It’s just been beaten up, was a good time now to really be patient with it and make sure I feel good before I step on the ice. Progress is going good, feeling better. Hopefully, I can be on the ice soon.”
With Backstrom out, a fierce, but friendly competition has emerged between 2019 and 2020 first-round picks, Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre, to land the team’s third-center spot, which is currently unfilled. Connor McMichael, who led the Hershey Bears in scoring last season as a rookie, tallied his first goal of the preseason on Monday while Lapierre has impressed with five assists in three games.
Backstrom is the Capitals’ franchise leader in assists (722) and is second all-time in points (980). Backstrom led the Capitals in goals and points most of last season before he was slowed by his hip. He signed a five-year contract extension in 2020.
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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