Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom sat out Sunday’s win over the Boston Bruins after playing the night prior in Pittsburgh. The team listed Backstrom as out due to general “body maintenance”.
Although that may cause some to raise their eyebrows in regards to the Swedish center’s health status, both he and Caps head coach Peter Laviolette say his absence had been planned for weeks.
“Yea, it was. We’ve been having discussions about that too, especially end of the season before the playoffs starting,” Backstrom said when asked if his scratch against Boston was talked about prior to it happening. “That’s something we planned and we agreed on a couple weeks ago.”
With the excellent play of Connor McMichael at center and the seeming resurgence of Lars Eller of late, the team has options to play with if they want to keep practicing load management with a veteran player like Backstrom.
“Yea, we’ll see, we’ll see how it goes. Obviously, we’re gonna play it by ear,” Backstrom continued when questioned if another planned absence could occur. “That’s our plan, we want to play as good as possible right now but we want everyone healthy and feeling good before the playoffs.”
Backstrom has played in 39 games this season and has 29 points. He missed the whole first two months of the campaign as he recovered from a lingering hip issue that has plagued him for years.
“Nick is in a position where he went through some things at the beginning of the year so for me, the maintenance part of player’s bodies, Nick’s body was something that we planned about and talked about,” Laviolette stated after the morning skate Tuesday. “(We) just looked at the schedule and (are) trying to do what’s best for the players in general and in this specific instance what’s best for Nick going down the stretch here as we try to prepare for the playoffs.”
The Capitals have amassed a 41-22-10 record for a total of 92 points but still remain in the second and final Wild Card playoff position in the Eastern Conference. To avoid a potential first-round matchup with a juggernaut like the Florida Panthers, the Caps will need to leapfrog either the Penguins (95 points) for third in the Metropolitan Division or the Bruins (95 points) for the first Wild Card spot. That fact may affect just how much load management they can implement.
“We gotta win hockey games,” Laviolette continued. “I cant tell you how the game will play out tonight and who is going to play what (minutes). I like the games that we played the last two back-to-back. The fact that we were able to manage minutes and keep guys inside of certain markers, I thought was good. Because we were able to do it in Pittsburgh, I felt like it left juice for the game against Boston the next night.”
The Caps have a game every other day until April 28-29 when they will play the New York Islanders and New York Rangers on back-to-back nights to close out the regular season.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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