TAMPA—Will Nicklas Backstrom return at some point during the Washington – Tampa Bay series?

Coach Barry Trotz said Saturday that he’s “optimistic” the star center will indeed suit up.

As for when, that’s the question no one seems to be able to answer with any precision right now.

What we do know is this: Backstrom did not skate Saturday since the Caps were off following their 4-2 win over the Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

“He is working out,” Trotz said at the team hotel.

Asked if he thinks Backstrom—the team’s best two-way forward—will see action against the Lightning, Trotz responded: “Optimistic, yeah.”

Since Backstrom left the lineup in Game 5 of the Pittsburgh series, the Caps have managed to pull out a round-clinching win over the Penguins and a statement victory over the Bolts in the ECF. The offense and power play are humming.

That said, the Caps’ lineup is immeasurably better with Backstrom in it due to his ability to make an impact at both ends of the rink.

Backstrom, who has three goals and 10 assists in 11 postseason games, has not joined his teammates for a practice or a morning skate since getting hurt a week ago. He has, however, skated at least once on his own. He’s also in Tampa and watched Game 1 at Amalie Arena.

Trotz typically wants players who are returning from injury to get in a practice or two before playing in a game. On Saturday, though, the head coach made it sound like he’d be willing to make an exception for Backstrom.


But of course, Backstrom has to be close to returning first.  

“I’m not worried about Nick Backstrom,” Trotz said, asked if a lack of practice time is becoming a problem for No. 19. “Nicky is one of those guys that you can throw him in and he’s not going to miss a beat.”

The next update on Backstrom’s status will come following Sunday’s morning skate.