On a night where the Capitals got bad news in waves, there was a glimmer of hope on the injury front.
Center Nicklas Backstrom is inching closer to a return, and the team hopes to get him back into the lineup before the holiday break on Dec. 24. The report came on ESPN during the broadcast of Friday’s 4-2 loss against the Penguins at Capital One Arena.
Backstrom has been absent from the lineup all season with a hip injury. He first donned a practice sweater for contact on Dec. 3 and began skating with the team in a non-contact sweater about a week earlier.
Needless to say, for a team that’s been dealt some serious injury woes to start the year, a return to the lineup for one of the team’s best players would be a welcome sign.
“Well he has looked really good out there,” coach Peter Laviolette said postgame. “To me, just watching him and the progression, you’ve seen him go on the ice in practice, start competing in drills, physical battle-level, pace, I think all of that is important for him to get that timing back for when he does get back in. Certainly positive that he has been with us, it seems like he is moving forward.”
During the Capitals’ loss Friday, they lost defenseman Martin Fehervary and winger Tom Wilson to upper-body injuries. Laviolette said postgame that they were being evaluated, but there was no update to when they could return.
“He adds leadership, he adds offense, he adds defense,” T.J. Oshie said. “He's a huge part of the heartbeat of this organization. He adds a large presence in every aspect of our game. We want him to come back when he's ready for himself and his career. But definitely on that day we're going to be very excited.”
Last year, Backstrom played in 55 of the team’s 56 games and scored 15 goals with 38 assists. He was the team’s leading scorer and, according to defenseman John Carlson, “by far” the team’s best player a year ago.
It’s unclear how his return could juggle the lines, but with the injury problems the Capitals have suffered early this year, a player of Backstrom’s caliber returning to the lineup is certainly one of the better pieces of news the team can get.
“We're going to be a better team with him, so we look forward to seeing him on the ice again,” Lars Eller said. “I think a lot of guys have stepped in and done really well. We've done well as a team and a lot of guys have gotten opportunities maybe they wouldn't otherwise have. But Nick's just going to make us a better team. It's that simple. So, we look forward to seeing him back, hopefully soon."