The Capitals’ optional practice on Wednesday saw a host of injured players skate before the team is set to take on the Ottawa Senators at home on Thursday.
One player notably absent was Nicklas Backstrom, who has been a regular at practices of late.
Backstrom did not have a setback in his recovery from offseason hip surgery. The team told The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir that the Swedish pivot is in COVID protocol.
The Caps’ top playmaker has been ramping up his on-ice participation over the past couple of weeks. On December 17 he shed his non-contact jersey in favor of a full-contact white sweater for the first time. Exactly a week ago at practice, he skated on the team’s top line with Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson.
This is not the first time that COVID protocol has thrown a wrench into Backstrom’s return plans. Last season, just two days after making his season debut, Backstrom was forced into protocol and missed the next two games.
“I don’t think it sets him back from what he was dealing with,” head coach Peter Laviolette said Wednesday. “I think it just takes away from him being on the ice.
“At least it’s now,” he continued. “He’s still out. He wasn’t planning on playing tomorrow. So now he’s dealing with this. He’ll get back on the ice. I think this will be quick. I think he’s been on the ice so long that he’ll get back out here, he’ll get his legs under him. He’ll be right back up to speed quick. As up to speed as he can be for not having played in quite a while.”
The 35-year-old center has yet to play in a game this season after undergoing a complicated hip resurfacing procedure over the summer.
“Just the smile on his face,” Laviolette said when asked recently about the Swede’s comeback. “He doesn’t seem to be carrying pain. He seems to be moving free. He’s working hard to get back in shape. He looks good to me out there. His skating looks good, his hands always look good, his hockey sense is always great. The skating looks good to me. It’d probably be a better question for him and seeing how he feels about things.”
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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