Capitals Break Down Plan For Backstrom & Wilson In Debut: ‘No Limitations’
The Washington Capitals don’t plan on holding back Nicklas Backstrom or Tom Wilson in their season debuts. Here’s what to expect.
WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals will play in their biggest game of the year yet, as Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson will make their long-awaited season debuts against the Columbus Blue Jackets following major offseason surgeries — and head coach Peter Laviolette isn't planning to hold them back.
The plan is for Backstrom and Wilson to be "integrated quickly" into the top 6, and there are "no limitations" on them as they make their returns.
"I mentioned 17-18 minutes, but we'll see how the game goes," Laviolette said. Nobody's come to me and said 'you can only play me 12 minutes."
Backstrom is making his return from hip resurfacing surgery, a procedure he underwent in June to address chronic hip pain. The procedure had ended the careers of some athletes, but the Swede defied the odds to work his way back and get back up to game speed. Backstrom said he's not only able to function in daily life and do thinks like put on socks and play with his kids, but he is able to skate pain-free for the first time since 2015.
He will be the second player in NHL history to return from the surgery, joining Ed Jovanovski. And despite the major procedure, Backstrom is a full go and is fully healthy, meaning he is ready to get back in the full swing of contact and game action.
"He's healthy. He's been training and he's in as good a shape as he's going to get from the assistant coaches and Mark Nemish and those guys getting after him for a month here, and he's ready to play. Same thing with Tom," Laviolette explained.
Wilson is returning from ACL surgery he had in May after he tore the ligament in Game 1 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 28-year-old was on a similar timeline as Backstrom and has worked his way back onto the ice. He has been a full go in practices and is 100 percent.
"There's no restrictions as to what they can or can't do," Laviolette continued. "But certainly we'll keep an eye on them."
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When it comes to special teams, the plan is for both of them to get time on the power play, while Wilson will also potentially get penalty-killing time depending on how the game goes. However, Laviolette did say that there needs to be good pacing when it comes to bringing them back.
"Once you start pulling three jobs, you see your minutes rack up pretty quick, especially if it's high volume on penalties. We'll keep an eye on that," he explained.
It's unclear how the lines will look, but Laviolette said the team will try to get the most it can out of the lineup and spread things around.
"This is a chance for them to come play hard… I think everything was planned out well by the players, the organization, certainly Jason Serbus and his staff and what they were able to do. Mark Nemish. Just a fantastic job with these guys to put them in a place of confidence to play this game today," Laviolette said.
Puck drop is at 5 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.