While Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom has made it clear he has not suffered a setback in his recovery from May 27 hip surgery, his slow but steady progress may not allow him to be ready for the Capitals’ season opener on Oct. 10 against the New Jersey Devils.
“I really don’t know,” Backstrom told Swedish newspaper Gefle Dagblad. (Translation here). “It’s such a hard question to answer. That’s something we will look at going forward, and we’ll evaluate the situation with help from the trainer and the fitness trainer.”
Backstrom told the newspaper he has skated five times since the surgery.
“I didn’t want to go on ice before I was ready for it,” he said. “I waited until it felt OK to skate again. Because of the injury I had to postpone my on-ice training compared to when I have done it in years past. But there is still time to go at it before the season starts.”
Backstrom is expected to return to Washington in early September but is not expected to be cleared for contact for the start of training camp on Sept. 18. He said he has been working out with conditioning coach Andreas Ohgren for the past two months.
“We have been focusing on getting the mobility back in the hip,” Backstrom said. “At first I couldn’t run or do anything like that. That’s why I waited until just recently to go on ice. He has many new ideas for rotation exercises and is focused on that the training should be similar to the movements we use when we play hockey.”
With Backstrom likely to miss most or all of training camp, Evgeny Kuznetsov is expected to take his place on a top line with left wing Alex Ovechkin and right wing T.J. Oshie. Backstrom’s absence could also mean an extended look at center for 20-year-old Andre Burakovsky, who spent most of last season at left wing. Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich, who also played left wing last season, also could see time at the center position throughout the seven-game preseason schedule, which begins Sept. 21.