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Backstrom Emotional After First Game Back For Capitals: ‘Couldn’t Ask For Anything Else’

Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom opened up about his return to play and said that he felt the nerves and emotion as he took the ice following a grueling rehab and hip resurfacing surgery.



WASHINGTON — On Sunday morning, Nicklas Backstrom was woken up by his son, Vince, poking him in the back and asking if he was playing tonight. For the first time in months, and after at one point wondering if he'd ever play again, Backstrom said yes, and admitted to his son that he was nervous. Those nerves lingered. but once he took the ice at Capital One Arena, he felt normal as he returned to play for the Washington Capitals.

The 35-year-old is coming off hip resurfacing surgery, a procedure that was Backstrom's last hope to not only get rid of chronic hip pain but to continue his NHL career, which hung in the balance. 

Eight months later, he was back in the Capitals starting lineup, playing as the top-line center with Alex Ovechkin and Conor Sheary. And over the course of the 1-0 win of the Columbus Blue Jackets, every mention of No. 19 led to a standing ovation from the crowd of 18,000 Capitals faithful.

"It meant the world," Backstrom said. "Obviously I missed this and with not knowing what my future was going to hold, just coming back and playing was great… I couldn't ask for anything else. That was something special, that's for sure. Moments like that, you're never going to forget. And it was very special."

Getting back up to speed, Backstrom said that there were some adjustments and aspects of the game that took time getting used to, including breathing, puck battles and finding chemistry on offense.

"It was just the conditioning part I was a little off. I fell couple times, hit some players. So it felt normal, so that part is fine," Backstrom said, then added with a grin, "I just need to work on my stickhandling."

He also had to overcome the nerves that came with playing his first NHL game in nearly eight months:

"I get a little nervous every game, but this was obviously something different. I haven't been this nervous before a game, I'll be honest about that."

Through 14:03 minutes playing at even strength and running the half-wall on the power play, Backstrom had one shot, three hits and a block while winning five of seven face-offs (71 percent). He also took an interference penalty when he sent defenseman Andrew Peeke hard onto the ice, to which Backstrom joked that he was just "testing out the body."

Overall, the Swede feels good and as healthy as he can be at this point, and now ti's just a matter of repetition when it comes to getting back to 100 percent. 

"We haven't had a lot of [power play] reps like that, and obviously, the situation is different, too, when you're starting midseason. It's hard to get reps with the guys, but I think in time, we'll adjust and make sure we get better," Backstrom said. "We talked a little bit on the bench, me and Tom [Wilson]. We said the same things: body-wise felt good, but it will be nice to get some reps and get in a routine here."

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