Nicklas Backstrom’s recovery from a hip injury has kept him out all season. Now, it appears he’s nearing a return.
During Monday’s practice, Backstrom was assigned to the second line and took rushes with the team for the first time. He centered Conor Sheary and TJ Oshie.
The 34-year-old Swede spoke to the media after practice about a potential Wednesday return in Chicago. While he didn’t directly give an opinion on if he’d play that night, he didn’t exactly say no either.
“I’m feeling good right now,” Backstrom said after practice. “It was nice to get a practice in and actually take some line rushes too. Feeling better, progressing. We’ll see where we’re at, another practice tomorrow, and we’ll go from there.
“It’s just getting some repetition in with the guys, getting into the system, how we play. Just have to refresh my memory a little bit.”
Backstrom has missed all 28 games the Capitals have played this season. He was listed as “week-to-week” by the Capitals from the outset of training camp with a lingering hip issue. On Friday, ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reported that the team expected Backstrom to return sometime before the team’s holiday break which begins on December 24.
“It’s just nice to be skating with the guys. Skating by yourself actually sucks,” Backstrom continued. “It’s nice to get out there and compete with the guys, take line rushes, that’s what’s fun. In practice right now I’m feeling good, hopefully, that stays the same during the game. When you get into those game situations it’s going to be a little different. Hopefully, I have enough experience that I can lean on that a little bit.”
The Capitals are currently without four regular forwards, including Backstrom. The Swedish center would give the team a much-needed jolt if he returns.
“He had another really good day today,” Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said. “We purposefully put him on a line and in the power play to start taking reps and preparing him. We’re still gonna continue to go day by day here, but the fact that you saw him take the workload that he did was a great sign and a great day. Probably the biggest thing you notice is the smile on his face.”
Laviolette played coy when asked if Backstrom would return on Wednesday.
“I didn’t say either way, I said he had a great day today,” he replied.
Screenshot via @Capitals
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