After getting cleared for full-contact by his surgeon on Tuesday, Nicklas Backstrom's return to the lineup could take place as early as Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"There's a possibility for Saturday," Barry Trotz said after the team's morning skate Thursday. "I'm not going to confirm or deny anything, but he's feeling better and every time a player tells me I'm feeling better and better I say there's a possibility."
Backstrom has not played this season after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery in the summer. The timetable for his return, however, continues to shorten. The team originally prepared for a worst-case scenario of Nov. 1. From there it went from 10 games to four or five. Should he return on Saturday, he will have missed only three.
While returning to a line with Alex Ovechkin may seem like a seamless transition, his return is made a bit more complicated by the addition of T.J. Oshie to the top line. After Backstrom missed every preseason game and the majority of training camp, Backstrom and Oshie have almost no experience with one another on the ice.
When asked if Backstrom would return immediately to the top line, Trotz was noncommittal.
"I think a lot will be determined on what we do tonight, how we look tonight," Trotz said. "Ideally [Backstrom's] such a gifted player you want to put him right where he's going to be and all that. Based on what he tells me and the feedback that I get from him, the trainers and everybody then that will probably determine ice time minutes and where he goes in."