Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
The day after Christmas, Nicklas Backstrom was skating in a KHL game for Dynamo Moscow. Midway through the second period of a 1-1 game, Nick took a pass in the far corner. He attempted to spin around and take the puck behind the net. Instead, Backstrom was slammed into the boards by Milan Kytnár; his face hitting the dashers. Backstrom got up, clearly shaken. He left the game after one more shift.
Given Backstrom missed 40 games last year after being concussed by Rene Bourque, this was a scary blow. Dynamo, however, insisted that his brain didn’t take the beating. It was, they said, a bruised neck. Backstrom’s agent reiterated that. But then Alex Ovechkin said something funny when asked about his teammate’s injury: “Sometimes it’s not hard hit, you just feel a little dizzy.” Dizziness, of course, does not usually go along with bruises.
Backstrom ended up seeing a neurologist, Jeffrey Kutcher, who cleared him to play. Despite the early injury fears, Backstrom had a nice season, putting up eight goals and 40 assists in 48 games. He made his teammates better too — Ovechkin only became a Hart Trophy finalist once he was reunited with Backstrom. He also did some Geico commercials. All in all, it was another solid season for Nicky.
Backstrom did, however, get off to a slow start. I asked him if his injury in Russia had anything to do with that. He seemed to be taken somewhat off guard by the question, but then insisted that it didn’t harm his play.
“Yeah, I had that injury but it didn’t affect me anything to be honest with you,” he told me.
“I felt like I was doing alright over here,” Backstrom added. “I have no excuses — I will never have them.”
Caps General Manager George McPhee was questioned Wednesday about who was playing through injuries this season. He declined to give details.
“You really admire these players because they play through some things — all the players around the league do — and they don’t need a medal to do it,” the GM said. “They play through it and they don’t need any recognition or anything. They just do it.”
The next day, word of Ovechkin’s broken foot was leaked. You know, the thing Ovi called just a bruise.