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What will Backstrom's absence mean for Burakovsky?

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What will Backstrom's absence mean for Burakovsky?

While Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom has made it clear he has not suffered a setback in his recovery from May 27 hip surgery, his slow but steady progress may not allow him to be ready for the Capitals’ season opener on Oct. 10 against the New Jersey Devils.

 “I really don’t know,” Backstrom told Swedish newspaper Gefle Dagblad. (Translation here). “It’s such a hard question to answer. That’s something we will look at going forward, and we’ll evaluate the situation with help from the trainer and the fitness trainer.”

Backstrom told the newspaper he has skated five times since the surgery.

“I didn’t want to go on ice before I was ready for it,” he said. “I waited until it felt OK to skate again. Because of the injury I had to postpone my on-ice training compared to when I have done it in years past. But there is still time to go at it before the season starts.”

Backstrom is expected to return to Washington in early September but is not expected to be cleared for contact for the start of training camp on Sept. 18. He said he has been working out with conditioning coach Andreas Ohgren for the past two months.

“We have been focusing on getting the mobility back in the hip,” Backstrom said. “At first I couldn’t run or do anything like that. That’s why I waited until just recently to go on ice. He has many new ideas for rotation exercises and is focused on that the training should be similar to the movements we use when we play hockey.”

With Backstrom likely to miss most or all of training camp, Evgeny Kuznetsov is expected to take his place on a top line with left wing Alex Ovechkin and right wing T.J. Oshie. Backstrom’s absence could also mean an extended look at center for 20-year-old Andre Burakovsky, who spent most of last season at left wing. Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich, who also played left wing last season, also could see time at the center position throughout the seven-game preseason schedule, which begins Sept. 21.

RELATED: LW lock: Ovechkin missing only one thing on his resume

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!