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The Washington Capitals will be getting a huge addition as they battle to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. Center Nicklas Backstrom, who has missed the last 40 contests after suffering a concussion on January 3 in a game against the Calgary Flames, will play Saturday night when the Capitals host the Montreal Canadiens at the Verizon Center. Backstrom confirmed Saturday morning he would play, and now head coach Dale Hunter has chimed in as well.
Washington will look to build on the momentum of their vital 3-2 shootout win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, in which they earned two points to keep the heat on the Buffalo Sabres in the playoff chase.
The Washington Capitals, in a fight for their playoff lives, might be getting a huge boost when they face the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night at the Verizon Center. Center Nicklas Backstrom, out of action for nearly three months, could be back against the Candiens, with signs Saturday pointing to just such a return.
Via Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post:
Nicklas Backstrom is taking line rushes with Ovechkin and Johansson this morning. #Caps— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikElBashir) March 31, 2012
Backstrom has missed the last 40 games after suffering a concussion on Janury 3 against the Calgray Flames. His return would be a welcome addition to a Washington team desperately trying to grab the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. After losing three of their previous four games, the Capitals earned two vital points with a 3-2 shootout win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
UPDATE, 10:37 a.m.: Backstrom himself has confirmed he will play Saturday night against the Canadiens. Again, via Tarik El-Bashir:
Nicklas Backstrom confirms that he's playing tonight vs. MTL. "Very excited," he said. #Caps— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikElBashir) March 31, 2012
First, General Manager George McPhee announced shortly before Tuesday night's 5-1 loss to Buffalo that Backstrom had passed the baseline neuropsychological test, a key hurdle to getting him back in the lineup.
"He performed better on this than he did on the baseline [test conducted during training camp]. We’ll see where it goes from here but it looks like the worst is behind for Nicky."
"I would have liked him in the lineup 50 games ago. Obviously he’s a terrific player but it’s got to be his decision," McPhee said. "We’re not going to put any pressure on him to play. He’s got to be comfortable and we’re not going to put this kid at risk by telling him we need him to play et cetera.
"He’s a grownup and he knows how he feels," McPhee continued. "He’ll make the decision as to whether he plays or not."
That was Tuesday night. Wednesday morning, during the team's practice at Kettler IcePlex, the team disclosed that Backstrom would travel with the team to Boston, where the Capitals play the Bruins Thursday night.
None of this is a guarantee that Backstrom will be back this season, but it is a good sign for the center's long-term health, if nothing else.
UPDATE: Right on cue, this from the Post's Katie Carrera:
Dale Hunter says Nicklas Backstrom will NOT play tomorrow in Boston. #Caps— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) March 28, 2012
Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom was elbowed in the jaw by Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque on January 3, and has not set foot on the ice in a game since the injury. The team has been cautious with Backstrom, treating him the same as they did teammate Jay Beagle when he suffered a concussion. It appears the team is now comfortable with Backstrom returning to practice.
#Caps spokesman says Nicklas Backstrom has been cleared for full participation in practice, no restrictions.— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) March 24, 2012
Even with Backstrom being cleared to fully participate in practice, the team might continue to move him along slowly, rightly being cautious for the sake of his long-term health and future in the league.
But Wednesday, Mike Vogel of the Capitals' website hit us all with this bolt out of the blue:
Good news for #Caps fans: Nicklas Backstrom skated y-day and is skating again today at 11 am. On the ice now.— Mike Vogel (@VogsCaps) March 14, 2012
Today was an official day off for the Caps after their 5-4 shootout win over the New York Islanders Tuesday night. According to the Post's Tarik El-Bashir, Backstrom spent about 20 minutes on the ice before taking his leave and reportedly felt fine in the locker room afterwards. He's also expected to skate tomorrow, when the team reconvenes for practice.
It's good to see the centerman making progress, but it's crucial from here on out that the Capitals don't rush him back. It may be a tough ask, with the playoffs just four weeks away, but it's the right thing to do for Backstrom's long-term health and his viability in the league.
Nicklas Backstrom has been out of commission for nearly two months after suffering a concussion, and now it appears as though he is trying to find some answers. According to Katie Carrera of the Washington Post, working from a report in the Swedish newspaper Expressen, Backstrom has returned home to Sweden to visit with a concussion specialist, which is not a very good sign. Here is a quick recap of the injury timeline.
Backstrom suffered a concussion on Jan. 3, when he was elbowed to the head by then-Calgary forward Rene Bourque. The 24-year-old center hasn’t played since, and over the past 59 days he has only been on the ice for five minutes. There is no timetable for Backstrom’s return and it’s uncertain if he will be able to play again this season.
As we've seen with Sidney Crosby, dealing with concussions is very much an inexact science. It seems unlikely that we'll be able to count on a return for Nicklas Backstrom before the end of the season.
#Caps say Nicklas Backstrom is in Sweden to visit family, not see a specialist according to team spokesman.
The Capitals say that the trip was designed to get Backstrom away from the ice and give him some time to visit with his family. The club took a similar tack with Mike Green when the defenseman was suffering from head injuries last season. Backstrom is not expected back in the country until Sunday, March 12.
BALLSTON, Va. - Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom addressed the media for the first since January 6 Saturday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, saying that while he is feeling better, he has no timetable for a return to action.
"I'm doing good," Backstrom said. "It's a long process, but I'm getting better."
Backstrom suffered a head injury January 3 when former Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque, currently of the Montreal Canadiens, caught him with an elbow to the jaw. Backstrom has not played since and has skated for a total of five minutes in the last 36 days, that coming January 23.
Backstrom did not expand on the process that he is going through to get better, but did note that it is the same process that his teammate Jay Beagle went through after suffering a concussion October 13. Beagle did not play again until December 28.
The NHL requires a certain protocol for its players when dealing with head injuries, explains The Washington Post's Katie Carrera:
NHL protocols mandate that in order to return to play, he must be symptom free at rest, symptom free with exertion levels required for game-play and then reach his baseline level on a neuropsychological test before he is back in a game. Players undergo neuropsychological testing prior to the start of each season to establish a baseline.
While Backstrom said that he is "not 100 percent to skate right now," he did say that he has been riding the stationary bike. Other than that, he is trying his best to stay patient and positive.
"If you want that answer, you've got to ask [head athletic trainer Greg Smith], I think," Backstrom said when asked about a possible return date. "But other than that, we take it day by day and see how it goes."
"Obviously, you want to be out there and play with the team," he continued. "But this is the situation you've got to deal with."
BALLSTON, Va. - The Washington Capitals returned to practice after the All-Star Break Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Every healthy player except for Dennis Wideman, who was given a day off after his appearance at the All-Star game, according to a team spokesman, participated in practice:
Rechlicz, recalled from AHL Hershey Monday, was brought up to add some toughness to the Caps' lineup, according to head coach Dale Hunter. Hunter also said that Rechlicz, who has 23 career games of NHL experience, will be a game-time decision Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In discouraging news, Nicklas Backstrom did not skate at all during the All-Star break, according to Hunter. In the last 24 days, Backstrom has skated for only five minutes. Backstrom suffered a head injury January 3 against the Calgary Flames.
Nicklas Backstrom, the Washington Capitals' superb first-line center, has been placed on injured reserve, the team announced on Wednesday. Backstrom can be activated from the list at any time, but for now, he will not play against the Pittsburgh Penguins and beyond. He will be replaced on the roster by AHL call-up Tomas Kundratek.
Backstrom was injured when he was hit in the head by an elbow from Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque last week. Concussion tests proved to be inconclusive, but Backstrom missed the team's next two games, both losses to the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. Backstrom watched Wednesday's morning skate from the bench.
"We're being cautious," head coach Dale Hunter said. "He's not feeling 100 percent, so we [are] just being careful."
Backstrom has arguably been Washington's top player this season, with 13 goals and 29 assists in 42 games this season. In his absence, Marcus Johansson will likely play on the top line with Alex Ovechkin.
Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman Mike Green left the team's road trip early, heading back to Washington before Monday's game against the Los Angeles Kings, according to The Washington Post's Katie Carrera.
General Manager George McPhee said that neither Backstrom nor Green were going to play against the Kings, so the team decided to send them home early. Backstrom missed Saturday's 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks with a head injury sustained Tuesday in Washington's 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames. Backstrom received an elbow to the head from Rene Bourque and left Tuesday's game late in the third period, but practiced Thursday and Friday, providing both him and Dale Hunter with some cautious optimism. Yet, Backstrom has not skated since.
Meanwhile, Green did not play in the third period Saturday after experiencing some tightness in his groin. Green will now have missed 24 of the Caps' last 26 games with a strained right groin muscle. He returned Tuesday against the Flames.
BALLSTON, Va. - Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom said that he "felt pretty good" during Thursday's practice and will travel with the team on their two-game road trip, which begins Saturday against the San Jose Sharks.
"I felt pretty good out there," Backstrom said. "I'm just following all the steps that have been made. I'm doing what they tell me to do, so we'll see."
Backstrom, who wore a gray jersey and skated on the second line with Marcus Johansson and Mike Knuble, fully participated in the hour-long practice and showed no apparent limitations as he skated hard.
"I feel fine," he said. "You've got to push yourself to know where exactly you are. I have the history of migraines before, too, so it's kind of hard to tell. Whatever it is, it seems to be fine."
Backstrom left Tuesday's 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames with just over three minutes remaining after receiving an elbow from Rene Bourque midway through the third period. Backstrom returned after the initial hit and took a few more shifts, but ultimately left the game. The NHL suspended Bourque for five games Wednesday.
"I felt alright after the hit and then a couple minutes later, then it was really bad and I had to leave the game but that happens," Backstrom said of the hit from Bourque.
Wednesday, Backstrom took part in off-ice workouts, but did not skate. According to tweets from Backstrom's brother, Kristoffer, Nicklas underwent concussion testing; the results were inconclusive. As Backstrom noted, he has a history of migraine headaches. He is formally listed as "day-to-day."
When asked if he would play Saturday, Backstrom said that the decision was not up to him. Head coach Dale Hunter said that the team will decide Friday on Backstrom's status for Saturday. Regardless, Backstrom's presence was a positive sign for Washington.
"By practicing and doing the whole practice with his line, it's better than we thought, which is good for us," Hunter said.
During the third period of Washington's 3-1 win over Calgary, Bourque delivered an elbow to Backstrom at center ice. Backstrom temporarily returned to the game, but ultimately left with 3:19 remaining. Backstrom has not been made available for comment since Tuesday night, but participated in off-ice workouts Wednesday, according to head coach Dale Hunter. Backstrom is listed as "day-to-day."
While the team did not go so far as to say that Backstrom was being evaluated for a concussion, Backstrom's brother Kristoffer tweeted Wednesday that Nick did indeed undergo concussion testing.
The National Hockey League's Department Of Player Safety's Brendan Shanahan explained the decision:
"When we look at the events of this game, we believe Bourque's assertion that this was an instinctive reflex rather than a premeditated attempt to injure. However as all of the parties in the hearing agreed, this reckless elbow to the head is indefensible."
Shanahan also cited the fact that Backstrom was injured on the play and Bourque's prior history as factors in making the decision. Bourque's hit was a violation of Rule 48 as an illegal check to the head.
Bourque will be eligible to return for the Flames January 17.
In the third period of Washington's 3-1 win over Calgary Tuesday, Bourque delivered an elbow to Backstrom's head at center ice and received a two-minute elbowing minor. After the hit, Backstrom returned to the ice for the ensuing power play and took two shifts after that, but ultimately left the game with 3:19 remaining.
Backstrom did not participate in Wednesday's optional skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but did take part in off-ice workouts and is continuing to be evaluated, according to Hunter.
When asked whether or not Backstrom underwent any concussion-related testing, Hunter was mum.
"No, we're evaluating," he said. "It's one of those things where you evaluate it for a few days and see how he is."
The team would not confirm if Backstrom had any concussion-related evaluations, but earlier Wednesday morning, Backstrom's brother, Kristoffer, tweeted that Nicklas did undergo concussion testing.
"Test done and the dr couldn't tell today but a small concussion/migraine," Kristoffer said in a since-deleted tweet. "Have to wait for tmrw and a new test."
Backstrom is the Caps' leading scorer with 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists). Hunter did not say whether or not Backstrom would join the team on its upcoming two-game road trip, which begins Saturday in San Jose against the Sharks.
Bourque will face a disciplinary hearing with the NHL Wednesday to discuss the hit.
During the third period of Washington's 3-1 win over Calgary Tuesday, Bourque closed in on Backstrom, lifted his elbow and hit him right in the head. Backstrom did not have control of the puck; he had passed it to Mike Knuble before Bourque made contact.
Backstrom did return to the game, however, but not for long before being taken out to undergo observation. Head coach Dale Hunter said after Tuesday's game that Backstrom was being evaluated and that more would be known Wednesday.
Backstrom's head was the principal point of contact and he did not make any sudden movements that put himself in harm's way. These facts, plus Bourque's prior history, will certainly come into play in the NHL's decision.
For more on the Caps, please visit SB Nation's Caps blog, Japers' Rink.
Midway through the third period, Bourque caught Backstrom up high with his elbow at center ice. Bourque served a minor penalty for elbowing, while Backstrom later returned, even taking a shift on the ensuing power play, but did not complete the game.
After the game, head coach Dale Hunter said that the team removed Backstrom for precautionary reasons.
"We removed him from the game," Hunter said. "It was precautionary. He's getting evaluated and we'll know more [Wednesday]."
Hunter did not comment on whether or not Backstrom had to visit the "quiet room," where players are monitored for concussions. Bourque has a prior history with suspensions, with his most recent coming December 19 when the NHL suspended him for two games for checking the Chicago Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook from behind December 18.
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