The Washington Capitals kicked off their 2021 training camp Thursday morning at MedStar Capitals Iceplex. The team held their traditional skate test to assess player conditioning, with the real work scheduled to begin on Friday.
Capitals’ general manager Brian MacLellan met with the media at the conclusion of today’s camp activities. The first big news of the day, which broke this morning before camp began, was the status of Nicklas Backstrom, who will miss the start of training camp while he is rehabbing a nagging hip. MacLellan was asked about the status of his star pivot, who is currently listed as week-to-week.
“He’s rehabbing an injury that he’s had for a while. Struggled with it in the playoffs. He’s rehabbing it now and we’re gonna see where it goes.”
MacLellan was hesitant to put any kind of timeline on Backstrom’s recovery, or estimate a potential return date.
“We’ll see how he responds here. I think he’s feeling better now. We’ll see how it goes here over the next few weeks, We’ll have a better indication of where he’s at over the next few weeks.”
The absence of Backstrom expectedly turned the focus to Capitals forward prospect Connor McMichael, and the possibility of the 20-year-old entering the Capitals starting lineup. While MacLellan said it was certainly a possibility, he also made it clear that McMichael was not automatically assuming the open center spot.
“There’s a possibility of an opportunity there at the beginning of the season. But I think anybody in camp here, there’s some spots that could be grabbed by young players if they play well. Or opportunity to play games, I guess is a better phrase.”
During his media availability held earlier in the day, Capitals bench boss Peter Laviolette said that he has had conversations with star center Evgeny Kuznetsov. Laviolette said that he thinks Kuznetsov is entering training camp in a good state of mind. MacLellan echoed Laviolette’s take on Kuznetsov.
“I’ve had a few conversations with him. He seems to be in a good spot. I like where he’s at, mentally, physically. He’s come here in really good shape. He’s added some good weight, strength wise. He looks to be excited to play this season. I think we are all looking for a good response from him and a good year. The expectation is that he’ll have a good year this year.”
The Capitals open their 2021 preseason calendar this Sunday when they host the Boston Bruins at Capital One Arena. Puck drop is slated for 5:00PM. The Capitals will open their 2021-22 season 20 days from today when they host the New York Rangers on Wednesday October 13 at Capital One Arena.
By Jon Sorensen