By: Ben Raby, WTOP.com
ARLINGTON, Va. – Two days after seeing a medical specialist in Michigan, Nicklas Backstrom took part in an informal skate with 14 teammates Friday at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex and said afterwards that he expects to play when the NHL season begins next weekend.
Backstrom was injured Dec. 26 while playing for Dynamo Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League with initial reports from Russia suggesting that Backstrom suffered a neck injury. There were also rumblings that the Caps’ No. 1 center may have suffered his second concussion in less than a year.
The 25-year-old Swede missed 40 games with a concussion last season but Backstrom was relieved to learn this week that this was not another head injury.
“I feel good,” Backstrom said after a 75-minute workout.
“I’m one hundred percent. I know [there is] a lot of speculation about what’s going on and stuff, but it’s something I wanted to check out. So, I went to Michigan and I got it checked out … No concussion, so we can all be calm,” he said.
Backstrom was confident that this was not another concussion. “The hit wasn’t as bad as the one last year,” he said. But, he decided to see renowned specialist Dr. Jeff Kutcher at the University of Michigan as a precaution.
“I think everyone in the league is going to be more serious about those things because it’s your head,” he explained. “You only have one head. You can’t really do anything about it. You’ve got to make sure it’s a hundred percent so you can perform out there.”
Washington won 18 of 40 games without Backstrom in the lineup last season while the power play went 15 for 102 (14.7 percent) in his absence compared to 26 for 143 (18.2 percent) when was in the lineup.
Of the 26 power play goals the Capitals scored with Backstrom in the lineup last season, he had a point on 73 percent of them (three goals and 16 assists).
“That’s something you don’t want to go through, to be away for 40 games. You don’t want to do that. Hopefully that’s something I only do once in my career. I’m only looking forward and being positive about everything now.”
“It’s huge,” teammate Roman Hamrlik said of Backstrom’s return to the ice.
“He’s one of the best players on the team and we need him desperately. It’s a big thing to have him,” Hamrlik said.
Backstrom enjoyed a solid stint in the KHL before the Dec. 26 injury, with his 10 goals and 25 points in 19 games both ranking second on Dynamo Moscow behind only Alex Ovechkin.
Washington’s 2006 first-round pick is anxious though to turn the page and begin working fulltime with first year head coach Adam Oates, a former play-making No. 1 center himself.
“It’s great that you can ask him questions and he can give you feedback. That’s what we need. I think all of the players need a little bit of feedback so that we can help each other.
He’s a smart guy. He was a unique player and a skilled guy, so I’m looking forward to playing [for] him. It’s very fortunate for us to have him here as a coach,” Backstrom said.
Backstrom and Hamrlik were joined on the ice Friday by forwards Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera, Joey Crabb, Matt Hendricks, Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault, Mike Ribeiro and Joel Ward, defensemen Jack Hillen, Tom Poti, Cam Schilling, Jeff Schultz and goalie Braden Holtby.
Forward Brooks Laich skated individually for about 45 minutes Friday morning ahead of his teammates.
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