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Backstrom Enters COVID-19 Protocol; Capitals Missing Three Of Top-4 Centers

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Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom

Just after making his return from the long-term injured reserve, Nicklas Backstrom will be out of the lineup again for the Washington Capitals due to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.

The team announced on Friday that No. 19 entered protocol and will not play on Friday against the Winnipeg Jets. Backstrom skated with Washington at practice on Thursday following his season debut on Wednesday. The team chose to travel to Winnipeg on Friday to be extra cautious with regard to COVID-19 and crossing the border.

It is unclear if Backstrom has tested positive or if he ended up making the trip to Winnipeg.

Backstrom looked and felt solid in his return to the lineup in Wednesday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. He had an assist on Alex Ovechkin’s record-tying power-play goal and also dished five shots, two hits, a takeaway and a 47 FO% through 18:14 minutes.

“Everything felt good. The hip felt good. I haven’t played a game in a while,” Backstrom said. “It’s going to take a couple games to get my timing back and stuff.”

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Backstrom joins fellow center Evgeny Kuznetsov and winger Garnet Hathaway on the COVID-19 protocol. Nic Dowd and Trevor van Riemsdyk were previously on protocol but came off it prior to Wednesday’s game. They did not make the trip up north, though, due to COVID-19 regulation and are designated as non-roster players for the time being.

It is a major loss for the Capitals, who will now be without three of their usual top-4 centers when they face the Jets. Lars Eller is the only healthy, regular center who will be in the lineup. Aliaksei Protas, Connor McMichael and Mike Sgarbossa are currently the other options down the middle, and there’s also T.J. Oshie, who can play pivot if needed.

Washington is also without another key piece on the top-6 in Tom Wilson, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. He has been skating in a non-contact jersey.

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