WASHINGTON, D.C. — Prior to the Washington Capitals’ optional skate on Thursday, Nicklas Backstrom was out on the ice, skating in full gear. The 33-year-old is currently on the LTIR as he rehabilitates from a hip injury, but he’s been on the ice in full gear for a few skates now.
Head coach Peter Laviolette said that he’s still progressing and working toward his comeback, but it’s still a process.
“We’re going to do what’s best for him. If he’s ready on the 10th game, then that’s great, if he’s not ready till 12 games, then it’ll be 12 games. If it’s 15, it’s 15,” Laviolette said. “So whatever his progression takes, we’re not going to rush that. The most important thing is when he comes back, we’re giving Nick the best opportunity to be ready to go, feel good and help our club and have him feel comfortable with what he’s doing.”
Laviolette also detailed Backstrom’s next steps as he works toward a return. The soonest he can draw back into the lineup would be Nov. 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers, per the LTIR rules.
“You’ll see him out here. I would think that at some point you’ll see him out with this group, moving around, working into the drills,” Laviolette said. “When you get to that point, from there, we’ll get into more intense practice where maybe the color comes off and the jersey comes off, and he gets some reps under his belt at full speed with light contact… then whenever that time is when the doctors and Nick and everybody’s on the same page and he feels comfortable, we’ll move forward from there.”
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Backstrom led Washington in scoring in 2020-21 with 53 points in 55 games. With him still out of the lineup, the Capitals still continue to utilize Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre to fill the void. McMichael can stay up with the team or return to the AHL if needed, but Lapierre will burn the first year of his entry-level deal if he plays in 10 games. For Washington, it truly isn’t a huge concern.
“I know there’s rules in place with regard to his participation… right now, we’re just evaluating him,” Laviolette said. “He’s been a good player for us, and so we’re kind of just going slow and watching him and evaluating him.”
There’s a possibility that Backstrom could travel with the team for its upcoming Florida trip to further bond with the team, but it won’t be a return for game action.