As the Caps look to rebound from their Game 3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lighting, their lineup for Game 4 will get a major boost as Nicklas Backstrom will return after missing four games with an upper-body injury.
Backstrom suffered the injury in Game 5 of the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He left the game after taking a shot to the hand area from Justin Schultz. The exact nature and extent of the injury are not known as the team has only described it as "upper-body."
The injury kept Backstrom out of the series-clinching Game 6 in Pittsburgh and out of all three games against Tampa Bay. Game 4 will mark his first ever Eastern Conference Final appearance.
And it could not have come at a better. time.
After taking a commanding 2-0 series lead with two wins on the road, the Capitals dropped Game 3. A win in Game 4 will ensure they keep a stranglehold on the series with a 3-1 lead. A loss will tie the series at two making it a best of three against a resurgent Lightning team marking Game 4 as a critical point in the series.
In 11 games this postseason, he has recorded three goals and 13 points, including the overtime winner in Game 5 of the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Based on warmups, however, it looks as if he will not take his customary spot on the second line. Lars Eller, who has played well in Backstrom's stead, will continue to center that line. Backstrom instead moves down to center the third line alongside Chandler Stephenson and Brett Connolly.
Stephenson, a natural center, provides the third line with someone who can take faceoffs should Backstrom not be ready in that aspect yet.
With Backstrom in, here are what the forward lines looked like during pregame warmup:
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - Brett Connolly
Devante Smith-Pelly - Jay Beagle - Andre Burakovsky
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