Despite injuries continuing to plague the Washington Capitals, the team did see a major step forward and a very welcome sight at their morning skate on Wednesday: Nicklas Backstrom.
The 34-year-old, who just celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, joined the team for the first time this season on the ice for Wednesday’s morning skate. Backstrom was in full gear and sporting non-contact blue jersey. He did not take part in line rushes, but was out there for drills and stayed with the team throughout the morning.
Backstrom had missed the start of training camp and headed to the long-term injured reserve prior to the start of the 2021-22 campaign as he continued to rehabilitate a hip injury. Backstrom had mentioned back in October that the injury was a “little bit connected” to his hip injury from 2015.
“I think what happened is just over time, over the years, it’s been grinding it a little bit, and I just think that that happens and when that happens, you just kind of have to reset and build it up again,” Backstrom said on Oct. 2. “That is where we are at and takes longer than you hope, but that is just progress. Just part of building it up again and making it strong again.”
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He and the Capitals have been approaching his recovery with a slow and steady approach, not wanting to rush anything. In the meantime, they have seen several rookies step up in his place, including Connor McMichael and youngster Hendrix Lapierre, who played six games before returning to the QMJHL.
No. 19 led the Capitals in scoring last season with 53 points in 55 games, and he has posted at least 50 points in eight straight seasons. His return will be a welcome sight for Washington, who is currently without two top-6 forwards in Anthony Mantha and T.J. Oshie, who was placed back on the IR on Wednesday. The Capitals are also missing center Lars Eller as he remains on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.