Speaking to reporters on Thursday, TJ Oshie pulled the curtain back behind Nicklas Backstrom’s hip injury and intense rehab. Backstrom was sidelined for half of last season and will likely miss most of the 2022-23 campaign due to a chronic hip issue.
Most of us see Capitals players when they’re healthy on the ice. What we don’t see is the pain they endure and the dedication they show behind the scenes to consistently play hockey at the highest level.
“I’ve never missed big chunks (of time) that he’s had (to) the last couple years,” Oshie said. “I do know him pretty well off the ice. He’s grinding through a lot of pain that a lot of people would have probably given up. I personally haven’t seen someone work as hard, recovery-wise, and to get back on the ice as Nick did to get back on the ice last year and then what I’ve seen him doing this year.
“I personally dislike training. I’m not a big weight room guy,” he added. “I do it, but the amount of work he’s already put in is absolutely incredible. If you’re feeling closer to healthy and you see a guy like that’s putting in extra, extra, extra work to get back and just to get himself healthy is encouraging. It’s the kind of guy he is.”
Backstrom struggled with everyday things like picking up his own socks, tieing his shoes, and playing with his kids before getting the surgery. Now he’s pain-free and optimistic that he’ll play at a level that he couldn’t before.
Capitals forward Tom Wilson is rehabbing his own major injury, a torn ACL in his left knee, and is known as one of the hardest workers on the team. But he’s been equally as impressed at Backstrom’s dedication.
“He’s been grinding,” Wilson said. “He is the last guy in the world that will ever complain. The last guy in the world that will ever say ‘I’m not feeling good.’ He’s just a quiet leader that keeps pushing himself. A lot of guys would just say ‘Hey, it’s been hard and I don’t want to do it anymore,’ but he’s just motivated, he’s a leader of our team.”
“I think he’s feeling good,” Wilson said. “I think you’re seeing the energy come back a little bit and he’s excited. It’s an injury that by no means is easy, but he’s just a guy that’s fun to be around and he pushes you to be better. He’s a huge part of the team. We’re lucky to have him. I’m hoping with everything in me that he can make a full recovery. He’s had such an amazing career so hopefully, he can keep it going.”
It’s unclear when or if Backstrom will return, but the legendary Swedish center believes in his heart of hearts that he can this season. The Capitals will go with a group approach to try and make up for both Nicke and Tom’s absence.
“You can’t replace 19 or 43,” Oshie said. “You’re just not going to be able to do it. We’re going to miss them definitely. They both look like they’re in good shape as they can be in their stages of recovery, though. That’s super super good to see.”
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