As the Washington Capitals prepared for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, one big storyline both reporters and fans kept their eyes on was Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom has missed the last four games with a right hand, upper-body injury but has made progress working out on the ice throughout the last week. Would he take line rushes? Would he work on face-offs? Will he practice with the power play? Would he be in the lineup for Game 4? Most of these questions are answered for you here.
Backstrom didn’t take line rushes the first time at the morning skate but during the second string of rushes, he hopped onto the second line alongside Andre Burakovsky and Brett Connolly. When the Capitals worked on special teams, Backstrom was practicing with the top power play unit.
Later in the skate, he was a part of an intense puck battle along the boards with fellow Swede Andre Burakovsky.
Backstrom also practiced face-offs with assistant coach Blaine Forsythe dropping the puck. Backstrom was all alone taking the face-offs, not going up against anybody.
Line rushes? Check. Power play? Check. Face-offs? Check. Another telling sign was during the scratch’s skate at the end. Backstrom didn’t remain on the ice for that extra session.
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The Capitals said that Backstrom wasn’t medically cleared by trainers to play, at least not yet anyway. Barry Trotz gave his daily update to the media on Backstrom’s status after the skate.
“Day-to-day, game-time decision. Hasn’t been medically cleared,” said Trotz.
While the mystery on Backstrom’s return is still ongoing, Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby are hopeful to have their key center back soon.
“It would be pretty cool,” said Ovechkin, on if Backstrom played tonight.
“If he’s going to be in the lineup, it’s going to give us more room to create with the lines and the team’s going to be happy. He’s our leader. We all love him.”
“It’s always nice to have Nick Backstrom in the lineup,” added Holtby.
By Michael Marzzacco