Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom has been activated off of long-term injured reserve and is expected to make his season debut in Wednesday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Nic Dowd and Trevor van Riemsdyk were also activated off of the COVID protocol list. In a corresponding move, Anthony Mantha was placed on long-term injured reserve.
Backstrom suffered a hip injury late in the 2021 season that lingered in the offseason through training camp and now into December. He was arguably the team's best player last season with 53 points in 55 games, but his production tapered off at the end of the season as he dealt with the injury. In five playoff games, he recorded only one assist.
Backstrom said following Monday's practice that he did not undergo any medical procedures or surgeries during that time and that his recovery has been strictly rehab. He was placed on LTIR at the start of the season allowing the team to go over the salary cap. With him now back on the active roster, Mantha had to be placed on LTIR in order to fit Backstrom's $9.2 million cap hit under the cap ceiling.
Backstrom took line rushes on the second line between Conor Sheary and T.J. Oshie in Tuesday's practice. His return will be a boost for a team that has been beset by injuries and COVID absences all season long. It will also be a boost for a power play that ranks only 27th in the NHL at 16.5% and that has gone the past six games without a goal.