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Backstrom's return remains uncertain

backstrom.jpg

Backstrom's return remains uncertain

While his teammates were putting themselves through Barry Trotz’s grueling fitness skate at Friday’s first day of training camp, center Nicklas Backstrom (offseason hip surgery) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (offseason wrist surgery) skated on their own, waiting to be fully cleared by the team’s medical staff.

While Orpik is expected to be cleared in time to play in the Capitals’ seven-game exhibition season, Backstrom’s timetable is far more nebulous, with the Caps’ Oct. 10 season opener still very much in doubt.

“It’s hard to say,” Backstrom said Friday. “I can’t really tell you a date. As I said before, I’m feeling good, no setbacks, and that’s a good sign. I’m starting to skate harder and harder now. It’s just getting the legs going and the strength in my leg. That’s what it’s all about. Hopefully, it will get better in a couple weeks and we’ll go from there. We’ll take it day by day.”

After playing in all 82 games last season and leading the NHL with 60 assists, Backstrom underwent arthroscopic surgery on May 27 and began skating with Capitals conditioning coach Mark Nemish on Sept. 3. He said that while others may be preoccupied by his availability for the Caps’ season opener, he’s not, even though he’s played in every Capitals regular season game the past three seasons.

“I would love to play in the premier, but who knows?” Backstrom said. “I don’t know myself. We’ll see how I progress in the next couple weeks. I hope to be ready, but you never know.”

Backstrom said a determining factor for when he is cleared to play is the amount of soreness he feels after heavy skating. Once that soreness dissipates, he expects to be cleared.

“It could be opening night. I could miss five games, I could miss 10 games. I don’t know. It’s all about how I’m doing and I guess the only one who can answer that is me. And I don’t know myself yet.”

Check out all the updates from Friday's media day here.

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.