While his teammates were putting themselves through Barry Trotz’s grueling fitness skate at Friday’s first day of training camp, center Nicklas Backstrom (offseason hip surgery) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (offseason wrist surgery) skated on their own, waiting to be fully cleared by the team’s medical staff.
While Orpik is expected to be cleared in time to play in the Capitals’ seven-game exhibition season, Backstrom’s timetable is far more nebulous, with the Caps’ Oct. 10 season opener still very much in doubt.
“It’s hard to say,” Backstrom said Friday. “I can’t really tell you a date. As I said before, I’m feeling good, no setbacks, and that’s a good sign. I’m starting to skate harder and harder now. It’s just getting the legs going and the strength in my leg. That’s what it’s all about. Hopefully, it will get better in a couple weeks and we’ll go from there. We’ll take it day by day.”
After playing in all 82 games last season and leading the NHL with 60 assists, Backstrom underwent arthroscopic surgery on May 27 and began skating with Capitals conditioning coach Mark Nemish on Sept. 3. He said that while others may be preoccupied by his availability for the Caps’ season opener, he’s not, even though he’s played in every Capitals regular season game the past three seasons.
“I would love to play in the premier, but who knows?” Backstrom said. “I don’t know myself. We’ll see how I progress in the next couple weeks. I hope to be ready, but you never know.”
Backstrom said a determining factor for when he is cleared to play is the amount of soreness he feels after heavy skating. Once that soreness dissipates, he expects to be cleared.
“It could be opening night. I could miss five games, I could miss 10 games. I don’t know. It’s all about how I’m doing and I guess the only one who can answer that is me. And I don’t know myself yet.”