How Swede this news is! (Photo via dumpnchase.com)
Nicklas Backstrom has missed the last 37 games — almost half of the season — dealing with concussion symptoms after Rene Bourque elbowed him in the head on January 3rd. But after skating by himself for 10 of the last 11 days, Backstrom was cleared to practice today with his teammates without any restrictions. If all goes well, the Capitals number one center could return before *gasp* the end of the regular season.
“It’s good sign for us,” Ovechkin told the media at Kettler after practice “Everybody knows we miss him. He’s that kind of guy we need right now. So I hope he’s going to be OK and he going to help us in these kind of games.”
Once in game shape and ready to return, Backstrom will have to pass a neuropsychological test and then be cleared by a doctor according to team trainer Greg Smith.
After blowing a three-goal lead against Winnipeg last night, this is exactly the kind of lift the team needed. In the Caps first 39 games of the season, Backstrom was the team’s MVP, averaging more than a point per game. In fact, he was on pace to tally 90-plus points, which would have been his second best season in the NHL — all sorely needed offense for a team that lacks center depth.
Below, I’ve transcribed Backstrom’s full comments to the Caps media today.
How does it feel to fully practice with the team again?
“I’ve been looking forward to this for two and half months. Kinda happy right now. It’s good to practice with the guys. It feels pretty good out there. I haven’t been skating long, but it feels alright right now.”
How did you feel out there?
“It’s kinda feels like you’re back in training camp. It takes a little time but it feels good. Even a couple more practices — I don’t know how long — we’ll see. Right now I can tell it feels good, so we’ll see what happens.”
Assuming everything goes well, do you want to be back before the end of the regular season?
“Yeah, absolutely. I want to be back as soon as possible. You gotta be careful to make sure you’re 100% before you go back. You don’t want to have a setback. That’s what we’re looking forward to and hope that I can be back as soon as possible. That’s my goal.”
How long have you been symptom free?
“When I got back from Sweden I felt really good. Then I was skating a little harder and harder every day. It was getting better, I think, every day. That’s what helped me: to start skating. That was the point, that I felt like I was good.”