Nicklas Backstrom

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Backstrom ends goal drought much to the delight of his teammates

Backstrom ends goal drought much to the delight of his teammates

Nicklas Backstrom is not really known as a goal-scorer. In fact, he has made a career out of setting up his linemates for goals and is one of the best in the world at it. But Backstrom has certainly been able to find the back of the net plenty of times in his career, but not lately.

Backstrom scored the first goal of the game in Wednesday's 6-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, but it was also a significant goal for him as well as it snapped a 21-game goal drought for the veteran center.

"Obviously it's nice to score, but I haven't really been thinking about it too much," Backstrom said following the game. "... As a hockey player you always want to score, right?"

That had to have made the last few weeks a frustrating time for Backstrom.

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At 21 games without a goal, this season's streak is tied for the second-longest of his career. It is only the third time he has ever gone more than 20 games without denting the twine.

Head coach Barry Trotz hoped to spark the team's offense when he moved Backstrom back onto a line with Alex Ovechkin. The move worked as in the six games prior to Wednesday, Backstrom recorded five points. The only problem was that all five of those points were assists.

"He's not just focused on scoring," Trotz said. "He's focused on checking the right way, he's focused on making plays, winning battles, all those other things, winning faceoffs. Whatever it is that he needs to do to add to our game even though he's not scoring."

As one of the team's top offensive players, however, the Caps need him to produce goals as well.

But it was not solely team success that was on the mind of his linemates.

"[Ovechkin] and I were kind of talking about that in the bagel room before the game," Tom Wilson said, "It would be nice to see 19 put one in the back of the net and he did. He's one of the best teammates and great character guy."

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"It was good Nicky got the first one," Trotz said. "I don't think there's anybody on our bench that wasn't happy he got it. It's got to be a sense of relief."

How much relief did Backstrom feel after avoiding a new career-high goalless drought? He'll never tell. Ever the team player, Backstrom said he was happier with the win than with the goal.

"It feels good, but the most important thing is that we won and we played good hockey."

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Calling an audible: Barry Trotz reunites Ovechkin, Backstrom as he shuffles lines for Senators game

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Calling an audible: Barry Trotz reunites Ovechkin, Backstrom as he shuffles lines for Senators game

Prior to the Capitals' game against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday, Barry Trotz told the media he was not changing his lines. Perhaps he was being coy or maybe he changed his mind.

Based on warmups, it appears Trotz has reunited Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the top line. That's just one of a number of changes he made to the offensive lines

Forwards
Ovechkin - Backstrom - Wilson
Vrana - Kuznetsov - Oshie
Connolly - Eller - Smith-Pelly
Stephenson - Beagle -Chiasson

Defense
Orpik - Carlson
Orlov - Niskanen
Chorney - Bowey

Trotz tends to shuffle lines frequently throughout games so just how long we see these combos remains to be seen. These lines, however, are a stark departure from Trotz's thinking over the course of the season. He has seemingly been reluctant to put Ovechkin and Backstrom back together. But, given the scoring slumps the team's top offensive players are seeing now, a change needed to be made.

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Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

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USA TODAY Sports

Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

Nicklas Backstrom has made a career out of setting up other players, but what many forget is that he is a pretty darn good scorer in his own right. Just not these days.

Backstrom had three goals in the first six games of the season, but since then he has been held scoreless. His last goal game on Oct. 14 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

RELATED: LISTEN TO THE LATEST CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST ON THE CAPS' WIN OVER MINNESOTA!

Offense, in general, has been hard to come by for the veteran center who also underwent a career-long seven-game pointless streak.

While Backstrom has managed to get back on the score sheet with three assists in his last five games, he still can’t seem to get a goal.

“Obviously you want to score,” Backstrom said. “That's a no brainer, but at the same time you've just got to stick with it. I mean, at least I created chances tonight.”

While the goals may not be there, however, the chances are. For Barry Trotz, that’s an encouraging sign.

“Backy was on the bench, I gave him a little tap I said you know the hockey gods will even that out,” Trotz said. “You probably could have had three tonight and he'll probably get one of those leaky lizards go through the legs or through the arms and one from a bad angle. They'll even it out for him.”

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With Backstrom taking on a more defensive shutdown role this season, his offensive numbers have taken a hit. The Capitals, however, do not have the same scoring depth as in recent years and need Backstrom, still arguably their best center, to produce offensively in order to be successful. He is just too good of a player to not produce.

But given his recent play, Trotz is not all that concerned and believes the goals are coming. Backstrom seems to agree.

“The sun goes up the next day anyway even if I don't score,” he said, “So you've just got to stick with it, work hard and hopefully you'll get rewarded.”