The Washington Capitals are ready to take on the Chicago Blackhawks for their second game of a three-game road swing, and they’ll likely have a key factor back in the lineup.
Nicklas Backstrom appears ready to go and begin his season against Chicago on Wednesday. He has been skating on the second line with Conor Sheary and T.J. Oshie over the last couple of skates.
Good sign for the #ALLCAPS seeing Backstrom taking line rushes a second straight day. They play Chicago tomorrow.
No Wilson or Hathaway. Leason draws out, it looks like. https://t.co/62RkNdSnnt
— Sammi Silber (@sammi_silber) December 14, 2021
Backstrom missed the start of training camp and has been on the long-term injured reserve while rehabilitating a hip injury. He last played in May, when the Capitals fell to Boston in the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Backstrom led Washington in scoring with 53 points in 55 games last season.
The Swede had been skating on his own with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish before returning to practice with the team toward the end of November. He was cleared for contact on Dec. 3.
“It’s gonna be different. But at the same time I think yeah we’ll see how it goes when I start playing and how I’m going to react to everything. In practice right now I’m feeling good, so hopefully, that stays the same during the game,” Backstrom said about his progress.
“I think everybody knows what he brings. I think he was by far our best player last season. I’m just excited for him,” John Carlson added. “Whenever a guy has a longer-term injury and rehab, that can be very difficult no matter what age you are, at what point in your career you are… just excited for him knowing what he’s done for himself to be at the top of his game. A lot goes into it, mentally and physically. That’s what I’m most excited about when he comes back.”
READ MORE ON WHN: Backstrom Opens Up About Recovery, Return To Capitals
Meanwhile, Tom Wilson, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, did in fact make the trip to Chicago. Per The Athletic‘s Tarik El-Bashir, Wilson was skating and doing extra work in a no-contact jersey at Wednesday’s optional skate at United Center.
Nic Dowd and Trevor van Riemsdyk also seem likely to play. They made the road trip and will likely come off the COVID-19 protocol. However, per COVID-19 regulations, they cannot travel to or play in Winnipeg on Friday when the Capitals face the Jets. Garnet Hathaway remains on protocol and is not with the team.
Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov will get the start in net, per head coach Peter Laviolette. Vitek Vanecek started the last game on Saturday against Buffalo.