Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (hip surgery) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (wrist surgery) could be cleared for non-contact practices in the next day or two, Capitals coach Barry Trotz said on Tuesday.
“I don’t have the authority to make that decision, but it looks like it’s getting closer to that,” Trotz said. “Backy has been skating very well in controlled conditions and once you get into practice you’ve got to avoid people a little bit and we have to see how he reacts to that.”
Backstrom, 27 underwent hip surgery on May 27 and has been skating under the direction of Capitals strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish for the past three weeks. He has said his progress is going well and will return only when he is 100 percent healthy.
Orpik, 35, underwent wrist surgery on July 28 and has begun taking light shots. Trotz said he hoped for Orpik to play in at least one preseason game, but if Backstrom and Orpik do not begin practicing until Friday (the team is off on Thursday) the chances of either of them playing Friday against the Bruins or Sunday against the Islanders are minimal.
The Caps open the regular season on Oct. 10 at home against the New Jersey Devils.
In other injury news, forward Chris Brown is expected to be sidelined the next few weeks with a hand injury. Brown was competing for the role of 13th forward for the Caps. He had no points in two preseason games.
Meanwhile, Trotz said forwards Marcus Johansson (back) and Michael Latta (lower body) are expected to return to the lineup Wednesday night when the Caps visit the Carolina Hurricanes in their fifth of seven preseason games. Trotz said Latta “is fine” and Johansson “should be fine,” but team will bring an extra forward and defenseman to Raleigh just in case.
Brown’s injury, combined with Backstrom’s possible return, could throw a wrench into the Caps’ ability to sign Derek Roy. Because Brown was injured during training camp and spent 42 days on the Caps’ roster last season, a portion of his $575,000 NHL salary will count against the Capitals’ salary cap.
According to www.generalfanager.com, the Caps are currently $236,541 under the salary cap.
The team would add another $950,000 to that salary space if they decide to assign Justin Peters to Hershey, which, theoretically, would give them enough cap room to sign Roy.
“We have limited cap space,” Trotz said, “and as you get closer to the trade deadline, $600,000 in cap space is worth $1.8 (million, prorated) because of the number of days left (in the season). As coaches, we want to win today. As management, you look at the big picture. That will be a decision based on communication and understanding. But we’re not quite there yet.”
MORE CAPITALS: Caps send defenseman to Hershey, await 10 more cuts