Capitals top-line center Nicklas Backstrom saw his hip surgeon on Tuesday and has been cleared for full contact, potentially opening the door for his return to the lineup before the end of the Caps’ season-opening four-game homestand.
“It’s always good to talk to guys who know about the injury,” said Backstrom, who has missed the Caps’ first two games after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery on May 27. “We had a good chat and we’re both on the same page.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Backstrom will “probably not” be in the lineup when the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks visit Verizon Center on Thursday night, but he did not completely rule it out.
“It’s probably going to be day-to-day,” Trotz said. “He got bumped a little bit today and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow. We’ll just sort of take it day by day. Obviously, when a guy gets cleared it falls into a shorter time period. Also, how he feels once you bump him around a little bit and check him out.”
Backstrom, who led the NHL last season with 60 assists, has been skating for roughly seven weeks and has been practicing with the Caps for the past week.
With Backstrom’s return imminent, the Capitals placed forward Sean Collins on waivers on Wednesday with the intent to assign him to the AHL Hershey Bears. Trotz said the team planned on recalling another forward from the Bears, just in case Jason Chimera (lower body) is unable to play on Thursday.
Backstrom hinted he might need another practice or two before giving a thumbs up to game action. The Caps conclude their homestand Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I haven’t played a game yet,” Backstrom said. “I haven’t had a chance to get the game on-ice conditioning. It’s a totally different thing to skate back and forth here and getting into a game. I have to feel comfortable out there, too, and that’s what I’m looking for.
“As of now, I’m feeling good, so we’ll see what happens.”
As for Chimera, Trotz said he expects the 36-year-old veteran to be in the lineup against the Blackhawks, who are in Philadelphia to take on the Flyers tonight on NHL Rivalry Night.
Chimera was involved in a high-speed collision with the net in the third period on a play in which Sharks forward Tommy Wingels was chasing him from behind.
“Yeah, I do,” Trotz said when asked if he thought Wingels deserved a penalty on the play. “But it doesn’t matter. They didn’t call it. I thought (Chimera) had a step on the guy and he sort of had him wrapped around.”
Trotz likened the state of his team to Chimera’s willingness to stay in Tuesday night’s game.
“You’re hurt, you’re not broke,” Trotz said. “That’s probably where we are today as a team. We got hurt last night (in a 5-0 loss) but we’re not necessarily broke. We just have to fight through.”
With Chimera unavailable, Trotz went with these line combinations at practice:
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson – Andre Burakovsky – Justin Williams
Brooks Laich – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Stan Galiev – Michael Latta – Sean Collins
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