Nicklas Backstrom took line rushes in Monday's practice for the first time this season, another step forward in his return to action which could happen as soon as Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“It was nice to get to practice in and actually take some line rushes too," Backstrom said. "But feeling better, progressing and we’ll see where we’re at but another practice tomorrow, so we’ll go from there.”
Backstrom skated with Conor Sheary, T.J. Oshie and Brett Leason in a four-man line during practice. He also took reps on the power play.
"We purposefully put him on a line and in the power play to start taking reps and preparing him and we're just still going to continue to go day-by-day here," Washington head coach Peter Laviolette said. "But the fact that you saw him take the workload that he did today was a great sign and a great day."
Following practice, neither Backstrom nor Laviolette wanted to speculate on when Backstrom may return, but neither would rule out Wednesday as a possibility, either.
Backstrom has been dealing with a lingering hip injury he suffered last season and has yet to play this season. As his recovery stretched from last season through the offseason and now into December, Backstrom said the process has not gone the way he expected.
"It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster I think, especially an emotional one," Backstrom said. "It’s some days early on you’re kind of like, getting down a little bit but at the same time I mean, now we’re here and it’s feeling good, which is what we all hoped for. So hopefully it stays that way.”
When asked if he underwent any medical procedure, Backstrom said his recovery has just been rehab and conditioning.
Backstrom's return would cause more shuffling of the lineup, but his pending return -- as well as the expected return of forward Nic Dowd and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, who both practiced Monday but remain on the COVID protocol -- has brought a sense of normalcy the Caps have lacked for some time.
"You never want to see people go through stuff whether it's an injury or have to sit on the couch for a long period of time, but it seems like it's just been that kind of start to the year," defenseman John Carlson said.
Carlson added "You know how much it means to [the injured players] and how hard they work, to be getting them back and feeling better is great."