In mid-May after the Washington Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs by the Florida Panthers, center Nicklas Backstrom gave a handful of solemn and sincere answers about his future – none of which were very optimistic.
Backstrom’s lingering hip injury had many questioning whether or not the Swedish playmaker would ever lace up his skates again.
Fast-forward four months later, Backstrom was in a far more positive and optimistic mood when he met with local media for the first time this season.
While the 34-year-old forward did not participate in the team’s day one fitness testing and is not skating yet, he has found his offseason hip surgery rejuvenating, allowing him to do things he previously took for granted.
“I think I tried everything else to make it better, [the surgery was] kind of like the last resort,” Backstrom said. “Unproven technology, I’d want to say for sports. But, I had to do it. I had no other choice. It’s either that or skate on one leg again.
“It was a life-changer for me in daily life, just to pick up socks, tie my shoes, stuff like that – and play with my kids,” he continued. “I couldn’t really do that, either. It helped me a lot functionally and I’m happy about that.”
The procedure Backstrom underwent is a complicated one that does not have a ton of prior success stories for athletes. He outlined some of the process to Expressen’s Magnus Nyström in August.
“My cap ball had unevenness which caused pain,” Backstrom said. “Now the cap ball is cut in half and I have like a metal coat around it. It protects it in the slot. I feel really good right now. We’ll see how it is when games get more intense this winter. It’s really amazing, the things they’re [the doctors] are able to do. I’m optimistic for the first time in years.”
The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir reported last week that Backstrom has been rehabbing daily with head athletic trainer Jason Serbus at MedStar Capitals Iceplex. The veteran Swede threw on a full set of gear — skates and all — for the team’s Media Day photoshoot on Wednesday. It’s thought to be the first time he has laced his skates up since the end of last season.
Head coach Peter Laviolette spoke with 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies and backed up Backstrom’s claims.
“He’s feeling good from a life standpoint – like he’s moving well,” Laviolette said. “There are checkpoints along the way. Inside the room, the trainers are working with him, the strength coaches are working with him to try and get him back to a good level of play. There’s no rush on this as well. Because it was something substantial, they want to make sure that they’re doing the right things. They’re being very patient, very cautious with it.”
Backstrom will be joined on the long-term injured reserve list by Tom Wilson, another crucial top-six forward. Wilson is not close, but is believed to be ahead of schedule in his rehab.
“He’s (Wilson) not out on the ice here,” Laviolette said. “He’s doing really well. He’s moving through the process the same as Nick. He’s having good days, he’s checking boxes off, he’s with the trainers and strength coaches. They listed him down the road with the injury. We’re not talking about Training Camp here. He’s down the road a little bit, but I will tell you they’re both doing very well, and they’re working hard everyday.
“We’re optimistic,” the bench boss continued. “They’re in great spirits and they’re training hard every day.”
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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