The 2021-22 campaign has been far from an easy road for Nicklas Backstrom. However, the 33-year-old center has been putting early adversity behind him, and with each game, he appears to be making more progress toward a return to full strength for the Washington Capitals.
Backstrom spent the first part of the season on the long-term injured reserve while rehabilitating a hip injury, and slowly but surely made his way back onto the ice, skating on his own before joining the team and getting into the swing of contact drills. And just as he came back, more unfortunate events unfolded, as he dealt with COVID-19 and a nasty bout with the flu that had him in bed rehydrating and off the ice for a bit.
However, he’s back now and said he’s starting to pick back up on the swing of things with each game.
“It’s okay,” Backstrom said of his overall game. “I knew it was going to take a couple games to get comfortable out there since I haven’t played a game in 7-8 months. So that’s part of the process. Feeling good, and good to be out there on the ice.”
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In six games this season, the Swede has impressed with assists in five of six games. He is also working to spark the power play and top-6 and has also seen a lot of chemistry with Tom Wilson and Aliaksei Protas, while even reuniting with Alex Ovechkin at times.
Head coach Peter Laviolette, who also said the biggest thing he’s noticed about Backstrom is the “smile on his face” when he returned, reflected on No. 19’s journey and said that his extensive experience proves beneficial to getting back up to speed.
“They’re experienced players. I think them coming back not that it’s easier, I think they just know what to expect,” head coach Peter Laviolette said of the recovery process for players like Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, who is dealing with another injury. “You know what Nick had to go through or T.J.’s stop-and-start season isn’t probably what they wanted but it is what it is. And so I think you go through the process of getting back up to speed.”