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Series lead gives Capitals time for Nicklas Backstrom return

The Capitals are winning without one of their best players, Nicklas Backstrom, and Eddie Olzyck says that's reason enough to keep him out of the lineup until he's 100 percent healthy.

The Washington Capitals are doing just fine as center Nicklas Backstrom recoups from a hand injury that’s sidelined him for the last three games. A 2-0 series lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final allows them to not feel forced to rush him back.

Speaking to reporters on Monday before returning home to D.C. for Games 3 and 4, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said the decision on Backstrom’s return is up to the player at this point. Backstrom has been skating with the team and Lars Eller has been filling in on the second line in his absence — and excelling.

“As I said, it’s really up to Backy, but it does give us some time if he needs,” Trotz said. “So we’ll see where that is. We haven’t really talked about it.”
[Lars Eller emerging as unexpected playoff star for Capitals]

Will Trotz re-jigger his lines when Backstrom returns considering the success Eller’s had? He wasn’t ready to divulge.

“We have a plan that hasn’t changed with Nicky for where he would go in,” he said. “So when he’s in, he’ll be with -- you’ll see who he’s going to be with.”

Backstrom missed the series-clinching game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and these two big road victories in Tampa to open up the conference final. His insertion back into the lineup will be a huge boost to a team currently sitting two wins away from the Stanley Cup Final. In the meantime, the veteran forward has continued to help his teammates off the ice.

“He has a really good perspective on the game and all those things,” Trotz said. “So he’s been a little bit of a father figure to some of the younger guys. He does it very quietly.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.