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Caps' Andre Burakovsky rejoins teammates, eyes return to game action

Caps' Andre Burakovsky rejoins teammates, eyes return to game action

Andre Burakovsky says he and the Caps’ medical staff have discussed next week as a potential target for his return to the lineup.

The 22-year-old winger has missed the last 14 games with a broken right hand.

Since Burakovsky has been out, his linemates, Lars Eller and Brett Connolly, have combined for just six points (2 goals, 4 assists).

“I feel pretty good,” Burakovsky said Tuesday after participating in the morning skate, his first on-ice activity with his teammates since getting hurt. “I still have got some issues with my hand. Obviously, it’s going to be like that for a while.”

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Burakovsky was not a full participant in the skate, but he did engage in passing and shooting drills.

Afterward, he said that he’s making progress each day but is still experiencing some discomfort while shooting and stickhandling with his right hand.

“I was skating this weekend, on Saturday, and I could barely shoot the puck,” he said, referring to a non-contact scrimmage against members of the training and equipment staff. “And [just now] I was feeling good. I shot the puck pretty good and passing and stickhandling felt good, too.”

Asked about a return date, Burakovsky said internal discussions have pegged next week as an option. The Caps close out this week’s slate against Nashville on Thursday and in Tampa on Saturday, then they open a three-game home stand against Calgary (Tuesday), Columbus (Thursday) and Arizona (Saturday) next week.

”We’re talking about sometime next week, probably, that I can come back and play a game again,” Burakovsky said. “But it all depends on how I feel. Like I said, it’s day-to-day. Some days it hurts. Some days it feels better. So it's tough, really, to say an exact date.”

Tuesday was a good day—for his hand and his psyche.

“It’s been a good day for me,” he said. “I've been missing the boys. They’ve been on the road a lot and I’ve just been home. It’s been a couple of real tough weeks with [strength and conditioning coach] Mark Nemish, for sure. Skating with no pucks every day for an hour, it’s not a lot of fun. It’s really, really tough. I’m glad I’m past that right now and I'm looking forward to being with the team.”

Barry Trotz acknowledged that Burakovsky is progressing nicely, but the head coach declined to put a timeframe on the winger’s return.

“He was happy to see everybody; he’s been lonely,” Trotz cracked. “When I get the 'okay' for him, he’ll be back in the lineup. I don’t have a timeframe.”

Prior to getting hurt, Burakovsky was on a hot streak, having recorded 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) in 12 games.

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin has vintage performance when the Caps needed one

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Nicklas Backstrom warns of the challenges teams will face when the season resumes

Nicklas Backstrom warns of the challenges teams will face when the season resumes

No one is quite sure when the NHL season may resume from its current pause due to the coronavirus and no one can agree on what exactly the NHL season should look like when it does. But if you think resuming the season is as simple as naming a date as soon as possible and staring on the fly, guess again. In fact, getting the players back up to game speed may be so difficult, Nicklas Backstrom wants to see exhibition games played before anyone starts playing in games that matter again.

“I think obviously a small training camp would be huge and some exhibition games too," Backstrom said in a video conference with the media on Wednesday.

The problem, as Backstrom notes, is that players will need to get back into game shape and teams will have to get back up to speed. Expecting players to jump from a lengthy break straight into the end of the regular season or even into the playoffs, the most intense hockey of the season, puts the players in a difficult position.

"I think it's important we've got to have some sort of camp if this is going to be able to start again hopefully," he said. "To be fair, I think that the teams that maybe's not in the playoff or already eliminated, they've got no shot. After that, you've just got to make it as easy as possible, but you've got to have some exhibition games before because otherwise, jumping straight in the playoffs, it's going to be a little tough I think."

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He added, "I see a lot of guys are practicing on their stickhandling on Instagram and stuff like that, but that is not the same.”

A realistic option for when play does resume is returning to empty arenas. The Columbus Blue Jackets were set to become the first team to play in front of an empty arena, but their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins was postponed due to the league's pause.

If you have ever wondered if a crowd can really affect the players, Backstrom was unequivocal that, at least for him, the crowd is critical.

"It would be really tough to play without the fans because they are everything to us and without fans, the atmosphere they bring, I think it would be really tough," he said.

But don't take any of this to mean that Backstrom is ready to throw in the towel on the season.

While no one seems quite sure how the NHL should finish its season, there seems to be a general consensus among everyone in hockey that it is absolutely critical to find a way to award a Stanley Cup champion for the 2019-20 season. The issue is not whether the NHL should, it's how?

"We're pretty close to the playoff," Backstrom said. "You obviously want to finish the season with a champion. That doesn't change anything. Whether we play mid-summer, you want to do it. You want to have a champion this year if possible. That's for sure. I think we're pretty unknown, what's gonna happen. We're just following the directions from the government and the league I think. Best-case scenario would be for us to finish the season, whether it's in summer or pretty soon."

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With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 5

With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 5

While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 5, a 6-5 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 25 that featured a major comeback from Washington thanks in large part to Evgeny Kuznetsov and Michal Kempny. 
 
You can re-watch the game tonight on NBC Sports Washington at 8pm. 

WHAT HAPPENED 

The Caps got off to a quick start when Kuznetsov scored less than four minutes into the game. Then the Canucks took over. Vancouver ran up five straight goals including one on the power play and one shorthanded. With a 10pm start time, most Caps fans probably turned the game off and went to bed during the second period. They missed Kuznetsov’s next goal, which he scored right before the second period buzzer. 
 


 
The momentum continued in the third. The Canucks got sloppy in their own end during a man-advantage. Garnet Hathaway came up with the puck in the corner and threw it to the front of the net. Bo Horvat never saw it and Lars Eller poked the puck through his legs and past the five-hole of a surprised Jacob Markstrom. The Canucks lead was suddenly down to two. 
 

 
Washington got within one and tied the game from a most unlikely source. Michal Kempny was playing only his fifth game of the season due to his longer-than-anticipated recovery from a torn hamstring. He was not getting a lot of ice time and he certainly wasn’t the focal point of the Caps attack. Kempny scored twice in 2:44 of game time on identical screened slapshots from the blue line. Washington scored four goals in 7:42 to tie the game. 
 

 
This thriller eventually went to a shootout. In the bottom of the third round, Nicklas Backstrom helped the Caps steal two points in Western Canada. We think. It’s still hard to tell how the puck went past Markstrom. 

MEMORABLE MOMENTS 

It had to be Kuznetsov’s second goal. Hockey is not a sport that lends itself to things happening as the clock runs out. So it was cool and unusual to see Kuzy score with six-tenths of a second remaining and hear the buzzer sound as the puck cross the goal line. It’s also fair to say that the Capitals probably don’t come back and win if he doesn’t score right before intermission. 
 
"That goal at the end of the second was huge,” said Eller. “Just a little bit of life, and then we said we needed to get another one early, and we did that, and then after that it was just a big push. It was big for the character of the team going forward." 

WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT 

This wasn’t the first comeback win for the Caps this season. But the amount of goals they had to rally from and the speed at which they did it was significant. It was a sign of things to come (think of games against the Sharks and Islanders in January). Washington proved in October that it is never out of a game…even when falling behind by four goals during a 10pm start less than 24 hours after playing an overtime game in Edmonton. 
 
The Caps scored five goals in a game where Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and Backstrom combined for zero points. Both Ovechkin and Carlson had nine-game point streaks snapped. 

WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT 

Technically, we weren’t talking about anything. Because of the late start time we didn’t have a postgame show. Yours truly was fast asleep. But how about Kempny scoring three goals in his first five games of the season? He hasn’t scored since. 

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