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Backstrom: Leg strength 'going to take a while'


Backstrom: Leg strength 'going to take a while'

One grueling stride at a time, Nicklas Backstrom is answering the biggest question hanging over the Capitals as they prepare to begin training camp on Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

After undergoing offseason hip surgery, will the Capitals’ 27-year-old center return to his throne as the NHL’s top playmaker? And, if so, when?

“As soon as I started working out again I’ve been progressing every day,” said Backstrom, who has been skating the past three weeks under the watchful eye of Caps strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish.

“It feels good. I’ve been bag skating after practice and it feels good. The thing is, you’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to take it slow. But right now it feels good, so hopefully it can stay that way.”

The Capitals open the 2015-16 season on Oct. 10 at Verizon Center against the New Jersey Devils and despite his progress, Backstrom remains questionable  for the season opener.

According to head coach Barry Trotz, Backstrom is not expected to play in any of the Capitals’ seven preseason games and will need about two weeks of conditioning once he is cleared to join the Caps for full practices. That could push Backstrom’s return to the lineup into late October, although he is not placing a timetable on his return.

“I feel like I’ve got to strengthen my leg up again and it’s going to take a while,” Backstrom said.

“We had a good discussion (with the Capitals). Personally, I don’t want to go out there early and hurt it again. We’re on the same page and we’ll take it day by day and week by week and go from there.”

Backstrom has played in every regular season game for the Capitals in six of his eight NHL seasons, including  all 212 regular season games the past three seasons. He led the NHL with 60 assists last season and finished sixth with 78 points.

But after dealing with pain in his hip since last November, Backstrom decided it was time to correct the issue with arthroscopic surgery. Backstrom said he spent the next few weeks recovering, then slowly began rehabbing with range of motion exercises.

“I haven’t gone through anything like that before,” Backstrom said. “It’s really boring to do rehab when you normally do other workouts. It was tough, but I had to do it and I’m glad I did. There’s no pain anymore.”

If Backstrom is unavailable for the start of the regular season, 23-year-old center Evgeny Kuznetsov is expected to take his place on a projected top line with left wing Alex Ovechkin and right wing T.J. Oshie.

Newcomer Derek Roy, who is on a professional tryout contract, could slide into the role of second-line center if he plays well enough in the preseason to make the Caps’ roster.

"I think it’s great," Backstrom said of Roy's arrival. "He's a great player. He’s good with the puck and he can play everywhere. A good addition."

If Roy is unable to make the Caps, Brooks Laich or Andre Burakovsky could fill the role of second-line center, with Jay Beagle and Michael Latta battling for the role of third and fourth-line centers, respectively. Marcus Johansson, who began his career as a center, is expected to begin training camp at left wing.

With Backstrom unavailable for the start of camp, here’s a look at some possible line combinations:

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson – Derek Roy – Justin Williams

Andre Burakovsky - Brooks Laich - Tom Wilson

Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle - Michael Latta

If you were Barry Trotz, how would you tinker with these forward lines? 

MORE CAPITALS: Caps' Wilson talks Redskins, fights and fantasy advice with Junkies

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Canadiens will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (43-24-7) take on the Canadiens (27-36-12) Saturday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Montreal.


The Capitals-Canadiens game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals at Canadiens
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime


You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Touted Prospect Shane Gersich signs with Caps, joins team immediately


Touted Prospect Shane Gersich signs with Caps, joins team immediately

The Caps signed University of North Dakota forward Shane Gersich, a fifth round selection in 2014 and one of the organization’s top prospects, on Friday morning, the team announced.

Gersich, a left shot who is listed at 5-11, 175-pounds, has already joined the team in Montreal, where the Caps play the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday night.

His contract, which begins this season, carries an average annual value of $925,000.

It’s unclear when Gersich will make his NHL debut, but it could happen at some point in the Caps’ final eight games before the playoffs.


NBC Sports Washington has been told that the primary objective for Gersich in the coming weeks is to get his first taste of the NHL by observing—and practicing alongside—his new teammates in Washington. If the opportunity to get him into the lineup presents itself, then it’s possible he’ll suit up.

The 21-year-old just completed his third season at UND. Here are Gersich’s numbers from junior and college, courtesy of


At UND, the smooth-skating and skilled Gersich also produced this memorable goal vs. Denver:

Gersich has been assigned jersey No. 63 in Washington, according to the Caps’ website.

The addition of Gersich and subsequent subtraction of Travis Boyd, who was reassigned to Hershey on Friday morning, leaves the Caps with 14 forwards on the roster.

“I think he did a great job at rookie camp,” Caps GM Brian MacLellan said of Gersich in July. “He was one of our best players, if not the best player, at camp. Really happy about the way he’s progressed and where we picked him. I think Ross Mahoney did a great job with that pick.”