The Washington Capitals have been seeing Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson get closer and closer to a return, and it looks like it could now just be a couple of games away.
Head coach Peter Laviolette said Backstrom and Wilson won't be travelling to Columbus for a quick one-game road swing to visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday before heading right back home for the second part of a back-to-back against the Nashville Predators. However, they are very close to coming back and could be in the lineup soon after that.
Both Backstrom and Wilson recovering from major offseason surgeries and have been a full-go for contact at practices over the last couple of weeks.
Backstrom underwent hip resurfacing surgery in June, a last-resort procedure to address chronic hip pain linked back to a 2015 surgery. There were questions as to whether or not No. 19 would be able to play again, but he has worked his way back and has gone from skating on his own to being a full participant for the team. For the first time in years, Backstrom said he is pain-free and able to function in daily life. That has clearly also translated to the ice.
"It was never in question for him," Laviolette said regarding his return. "Going back to last year, he was like, 'I'll be back.' He had it in his mind that he was going to play again, and he was adamant about that. To his credit, it was a long road… there are good days and bad days inside an injury, and they were really dedicated to try and come back and help this team and have an impact."
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Wilson, meanwhile, suffered a torn ACL in Game 1 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs and had a procedure to repair it in May. He was given a 6-8 month timeline and has been progressing and doing what he can to get back in game shape. No. 43 is coming off the best season of his career that saw him put up 24 goals, 28 assists and 52 points, which earned him All-Star accolades and made him one of the team's most important assets.
Laviolette said both would be given time to get back in the swing of things, but the plan is to put them back in their top-6 roles.
"They will be integrated in quickly," Laviolette said. "If they are cleared to come back, to me, they now have to get into game shape and so we got to play them. There won't be any hiding them. Am I going to come out and play them 27 minutes in the first game? No, but is Nick Backstrom going to be on the power play? Yes he is. He is one of the best in the league. We're going to get these guys back going."