Tarik El-Bashir - Capitals Insider

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Caps are embracing the morning skate hot lap

Caps are embracing the morning skate hot lap

TAMPA-The first rule about The Hot Lap is: you don’t talk about the Caps’ morning skate hot lap.

Or at least you don’t say much about it.

What the heck am I talking about? Watch this:

It’s become a thing in these playoffs—and the Caps’ players have embraced it.

Here’s what we do know:

*The Hot Lap only occurs for morning skates on the road.

*Jay Beagle initiated it in the first round, likely because he grew tired of waiting for the ice to freeze thoroughly following a cut by the Zamboni.

*Alex Ovechkin seized it from Beagle prior to Game 6 in Pittsburgh, presumably because the team lost Game 4 at PPG Paints Arena.

The Hot Lap has been performed by Ovechkin ever since…and the Caps are 2-0 in those games.

So, of course, he did it again Sunday prior to Game 2 in Tampa.

As much as we’d all like to know more about this tradition and its origins, those details probably won’t be forthcoming. 

Why? 

Superstitious hockey players are usually loath to discuss their superstitions.

 

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Nicklas Backstrom will be a game-time decision for Game 2

Nicklas Backstrom will be a game-time decision for Game 2

TAMPA—Nicklas Backstrom joined his teammates for the morning skate Sunday, marking the first time the star center participated in a team setting since getting hurt in the previous round.

Coach Barry Trotz said afterward that Backstrom will be a game-time decision for Game 2 at Amalie Arena.

Backstrom, the team’s best two-way forward, has been sidelined by an upper-body injury that he suffered in Game 5 vs. Pittsburgh. He has skated on his own at least once previously and has been working out off the ice for the past week.

Sunday morning, though, represented a breakthrough of sorts, even if he did not appear to be at 100-percent. 

Backstrom sported a full-contact red jersey, but he was not included in the line rushes. Instead, he rotated in.

Backstrom also stayed on the ice after the skate for some additional skills and skating, but he headed to the dressing room prior to the grueling conditioning skate that’s typically reserved for the extras.

Assuming Backstrom does not suit up, the forward combos figure to be the same as Game 1’s.

Backstrom did not speak to reporters after the skate and Trotz didn’t offer much in the way of an update.

“Yes, every day has been,” Trots responded, asked if Sunday morning represented a good step for Backstrom. “But he’s a game-time decision, for your info. Which is the next question, I know.”

The next indication of Backstrom’s status will come Sunday night, about a half hour prior to warmups.

“He’s our key player,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “We’ll see how it’s going to happen, if he’s going to play tonight or not. Obviously, everybody knows what he means to this organization and to this club. It would be nice.”

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Barry Trotz "optimistic" about a Backstrom return in these playoffs

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USA TODAY Sports

Barry Trotz "optimistic" about a Backstrom return in these playoffs

TAMPA—Will Nicklas Backstrom return at some point during the Washington – Tampa Bay series?

Coach Barry Trotz said Saturday that he’s “optimistic” the star center will indeed suit up.

As for when, that’s the question no one seems to be able to answer with any precision right now.

What we do know is this: Backstrom did not skate Saturday since the Caps were off following their 4-2 win over the Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

“He is working out,” Trotz said at the team hotel.

Asked if he thinks Backstrom—the team’s best two-way forward—will see action against the Lightning, Trotz responded: “Optimistic, yeah.”

Since Backstrom left the lineup in Game 5 of the Pittsburgh series, the Caps have managed to pull out a round-clinching win over the Penguins and a statement victory over the Bolts in the ECF. The offense and power play are humming.

That said, the Caps’ lineup is immeasurably better with Backstrom in it due to his ability to make an impact at both ends of the rink.

Backstrom, who has three goals and 10 assists in 11 postseason games, has not joined his teammates for a practice or a morning skate since getting hurt a week ago. He has, however, skated at least once on his own. He’s also in Tampa and watched Game 1 at Amalie Arena.

Trotz typically wants players who are returning from injury to get in a practice or two before playing in a game. On Saturday, though, the head coach made it sound like he’d be willing to make an exception for Backstrom.

But of course, Backstrom has to be close to returning first.  

“I’m not worried about Nick Backstrom,” Trotz said, asked if a lack of practice time is becoming a problem for No. 19. “Nicky is one of those guys that you can throw him in and he’s not going to miss a beat.”

The next update on Backstrom’s status will come following Sunday’s morning skate. 

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