Nicklas Backstrom Skates In Regular Jersey, Sonny Milano Returns: Notes From Capitals Saturday Morning Skate

The Washington Capitals returned to MedStar Capitals Iceplex Saturday morning for final preparations in advance of their tilt with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two teams do battle tonight at Capital One Arena with puck-drop set for 7PM.

Center Nicklas Backstrom skated in a regular (contact) jersey this morning, indicating he is ready for full contact. Lines and pairs at morning skate courtesy of Tom Gulitti/

Alex Ovechkin — Dylan Strome — Conor Sheary
Sonny Milano — Evgeny Kuznetsov — Anthony Mantha
Marcus Johansson — Lars Eller — T.J. Oshie
Aliaksei Protas — Nic Dowd — Garnet Hathaway

Erik Gustafsson — John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov — Nick Jensen
Matt Irwin — Trevor Van Riemsdyk

Charlie Lindgren
Hunter Shepard
Darcy Kuemper

Extras: Nicklas Backstrom, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Lucas Johansen, Joe Snively, Beck Malenstyn.

Charlie Lindgren was in the starters net, indicating he is likely to get the start tonight against the Maple Leafs.

Capitals PP1: Carlson, Ovechkin, Oshie, Kuznetsov, Strome; PP2: Gustafsson, Orlov-Sheary-Johansson-Milano

Sonny Milano, who missed the game on Thursday with a non-COVID illness, was on the ice for the Capitals’ morning skate. Beck Malenstyn (finger) also skated in a regular jersey. Tom Wilson skated in a non-contact jersey.

Laviolette on Backstrom: “It’s another step. When you remove that blue jersey you’re allowed to be battled and hit, and compete in drills. …But I want to be clear, too: we’re not thinking about Nick Backstrom tonight. He has a lot of work to do.”


The Washington Capitals tangle with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night for the second meeting of the season between the two teams. Toronto has taken four straight and five of the last seven against Washington dating back to the start of the 2018-19 season, including a 3-2 win at Scotiabank Arena on October 13.

Former Capitals netminder Ilya Samsonov will be in goal tonight for the Maple Leafs. “Everyone knows he’s a nice player and great sniper. I wish him the best in pursuing Gretzky’s record. But not against Toronto,” said Samsonov of friend Alex Ovechkin. [More here.]

Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington locally or NHL Network nationally starting at 7 PM ET. [Full preview here]


Today’s stat of the day comes from “Man-Games Lost” on Twitter. The following graphic plots the total man-games lost and total team wins for each team.

NHL top 5 teams, man-games lost to injury and health protocols: WSH 227, TOR 224, PHI 214, MTL 187 and CBJ 166.


Hershey Bears Kale Kessy knows no limits when it comes time to defending his team, and that includes going into the opposing team’s bench to take care of business, as he did last night in Wilkes-Barre.

Washington Capitals forward prospect Alexander Suzdalev continues to heat-up in the WHL. The 18-year-old forward now has 20 goals on the season, including two more tallies on Friday night.

Suzdalev recorded his 19th goal of the season late in the first period of Friday night’s tilt with the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Suzdalev scored his 20th goal of the season late in the second period.

Suzdalev has been thriving in the absence of phenom Connor Bedard. He now has four goals and four assists in the last five games since Bedard left for Team Canada’s World Juniors training camp on December 4.

Suzdalev now has 20 goals (5th in WHL) and 23 assists  for 43 points (7th in the WHL) in 31 games played so far for the Pats. He has points in 18 of the last 19 games and 34 points in the last 19 games played.

Suzdalev has shot the puck 68 times this season for an impressive 29.41% shooting percentage, which is second-best in the WHL. He also has 11 power play goals which is third-best in the WHL.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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19 Responses to Nicklas Backstrom Skates In Regular Jersey, Sonny Milano Returns: Notes From Capitals Saturday Morning Skate

  1. Anonymous says:

    Backstrom is really close, maybe a return within the next week?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good to see Sudz picking up the scoring in the absence of Connor Beddar. Shows he doesn’t need him to score.

  3. dwgie26 says:

    I know there are some who want to run all of our old guys out including Backstrom, but i am excited to see him getting ready to come back. We’ll see what he brings but i am surprised and pleased to see him this close to a return.

    Then we have Beck and Wilson in next 2-3 weeks as well, so it’s going to get interesting. We have a numbers and cap issue.

    It was stated at governors meetings by several GM’s that it is impossible to get a trade done right now citing parity, too many teams in the hunt, and a lot of “wait and see” stances. I’d love to move Mantha because he is good and brings value, but on OUR team, that spot can be fairly easily replaced by Protas or Snively, free up Cap space for NB19, and open a roster spot. I just don’t know that a reasonable trade can be had.

    • hockeydruid says:

      As for trading Mantha I have NO problem doing that and hopefully trade him for picks only no players as we have younger guys who need to get playing time. IF Nicky is ready to come back and Beck and Wilson behind then not only Mantha will have to go but Eller also. Who do you sit amongst the centers and on which line do you play Backy? My concern about Backy is that he will come back a trade will be made to accomidate his salary and then after a game or 2 he, like all the others who have had this surgery, realize that they cant play like the used to and has to retire and the team has to once again replace a player but this might be a good thing as now a younger player and less expensive player will be in his place. .

      • dwgie26 says:

        It is certainly possible that Backstrom gives it a go and it doesn’t work out. That is why you can’t trade Eller this season. Protas, CMM, Lappy could all fill in for a game or two, but they can’t be a legit 3C (today) for a team that has eyes set on playoffs and a Cup Run (defined as anyone making the playoffs). Mantha is more easily replaced.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What type of roster moves will be needed if Backstrom and Wilson return soon? Are there roster size and cap implications?

    • dwgie26 says:

      There are two things that have to be worked out:
      1. Roster size of 23 active players
      2. Cap compliance

      It looks like Backstrom (9.2M), Wilson (5.1M), Malenstyn (750k), and Fever (750k) are all likely to come back in next 3-4 weeks. The only salary add we really need to worry about is Backstrom because he is on LTIR and the rest are on IR only freeing up a spot on 23 but still count against Cap.

      So 4 players in and 4 players out. And then we need to figure out the Cap issue. But some good players are going to have to go through waivers. That is why I think we should look at Mantha. Doubt we want to move Eller until we know Backstrom can hold down 3C in healthy fashion. We could try to move NAK and Snively but most teams will wait for waiver and not give up an asset.

      • horn73 says:

        Good point about Wilson’s contract already being counted…damn, my mind had him on Long term.

      • hockeydruid says:

        I would have no problem trading both Mantha and Eller if Backy is ready to come back but only for draft picks. I also would not be against trading Kuzy now not only to free up cap space but to get younger at the C position. Although he is not a UFA for 2 more years they would receive more for him now than next year and at 32 I do not see the Caps resigning him. The Caps ahve a history of letting players walk and getting nothing rather than trading them and at least getting draft picks. If Backy finds out after 2 games that he cant play like he used to like the other players who have had this surgery then no sweat as CMM can be recalled and inserted into the lineup and play his natural position. With 13 UFA/RFA on this team after this season there is no way that all of them can be resigned so sooner or later they are going to have to find replacements and lets look inhouse first. I know that Im in the minority here in not caring about the playoffs this year or next and would rather see what we have in the cupboard and need to draft before buying a lot of free agents. Also the owner needs to think seriously about who is going to be the next head coach and GM. With a rebuild imminent I do not believe that the current HC and GM are the people to do it.

        • Jim Lash says:

          I agree with you, unless this team turns around solidly real soon, forget the season and lets start a rebuild. I like Backstrom, but I think he is done, I seriously doubt he will be anywhere near what he was. I hope I am wrong. Too much salary on the core payers, start now, rather than wait another year or two, we are NOT what we once were, or anywhere close to it.

  5. horn73 says:

    From what I can tell, utilizing Cap Friendly, is that the Caps have about 2.5m/3m space right now. Backy is 9.2m. So that leave 6.5m ish to free up

    I believe bringing him on would require moving 2 players. The only individual players that would free enough space up is Carlson, Ovi, and Kuzy.

    Orlov, Oshi and Mantha are in the 5-6m dollar range. Eller at 3.5, but as much as trading a center makes sense, will they really do that when 19 could have any type of setback. I’d think GM would want to wait at least a couple of weeks to see how Nick plays and if she stays healthy before trading a top 3 center on a playoff type roster. If they trade Eller and then Backy has a setback, the Caps are now have put themselves in a corner a bit. yeah, Connor can handle, but I think they don’t want to put him there until next year. Anyway, I think Mantha is the one to go plus another. If they do move Eller, they still have to move a sizable contract and they Caps are a bit exposed at the Center positions despite what some fans may think. Oh, and Wilson is coming so the Caps really need to free up about 12m….

    Do they trade Kuzy? He’d have a lot of interest, get a good return and then make it possible to only have to move 2 players – say Kuzy and Mantha, If this were to happen, I think it would say a lot about how GM and Lavy feel about Stromme.

    GM, in my opinion, has done a remarkable job so far navigating a very tough situation.

    • hockeydruid says:

      I would look at Kuzy, Mantha, Eller, Orlov and Kuemper and almost anyone not named Ovie being on the trading block. With 13 UFA/RFA on the team you have to trade some of them as get something even if it is just draft picks rather than let them all walk. They will not be able to resign all 13 so pick the ones who will bring the most in trade and trade them soon. Sad to say but due to the insistence of the owner oin making the playoffs only to lose in the first round the past several years, the low draft picks which do not bring impact players and the number of UFA/RFA this year and next, this team is going to be forced into a rebuild. Also and extremely important will be the selection of a new HC for next year and hopefully we will also receive a new GM.

    • franky619 says:

      Trading Kuzy to make room for Backstrom??? What?? Trading a younger faster more skilled, difference maker and cheaper player for Backstrom. Hey if they want to make a play for Bedard that’s the right move other than that Backstrom can’t even replace Dowd.

  6. Jon Sorensen says:

  7. dwgie26 says:

    Sure, anyone can be on the table. But it depends on what the market is buying and what they are willing to offer. If right offer came for Kuzy, maybe it gets explored, but GMBM is shrewd. He would make that team pay dearly. So don’t expect that to happen even if it is explored. Same for Oshie and Orlov and JC74.

  8. Anonymous says:

    If Nick comes off LTIR can’t we move Hags there so we still have cap savings?

    • dwgie26 says:

      Today, Backstrom, Hags, and Brown are on LTIR and their cap does not count.

      Wilson, Malenstyn, Alexyev, Keumper, and Fever are on IR and their Cap Hits ARE counted. Highly likely all of them are back before Backstrom and won’t be moved to LTIR.

    • Anonymous says:

      Trading Kuzy is guaranteed to bring a kow return. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if he gets traded next year.

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