WASHINGTON — Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom traveled with the team to Pittsburgh and could be in the lineup for Game 6 on Monday.
Backstrom left Game 5 Saturday midway through the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Backstrom appeared in discomfort after blocking a Justin Schultz shot with his right hand at the 7:37 mark of the first period. He did not take another faceoff for the rest of the game.
The prognosis Sunday afternoon sounded encouraging.
“He got some maintenance today,” head coach Barry Trotz told reporters. “We’ll see where he is tomorrow.”
Asked if he expects Backstrom to be in the lineup, Trotz confirmed that he does.
The Capitals lead the Penguins 3-games-to-2 and are a win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 1998.
The potential loss of Backstrom for Game 6 would be significant with the Capitals already missing a couple of pieces from its top six forward group. Andre Burakovsky, who hasn’t played since Game 2 of the first round, is still out with an upper-body injury while Tom Wilson is out for Game 6 as he’ll serve the third of his three-game suspension.
Backstrom has three goals and 13 points in 11 playoff games this spring, and has been a key cog on both special teams units. Backstrom’s eight power-play points are tops among all forwards in the playoffs (through Sunday). He has also been solid defensively, playing primarily against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins’ No.1 line when the Capitals have been at home and could get their desired matchup.
“I just think he’s one of those guys that never gets caught out of position and never makes mistakes,” defenseman John Carlson said of Backstrom’s defensive game.
“It’s easy to say, and it may not sound like much, but to just be as consistently responsible as he’s been is amazing. We rely on him so much and he does so many great things in the other zone that maybe that [defensive effort] doesn’t get talked about enough. He’s been our rock for years.”
Backstrom has played in 107 of the Capitals’ 108 postseason games since 2008 and has never missed a playoff game due to injury. The only game he missed – Game 4 of Washington’s first-round series against the Boston Bruins in 2012 – was due to a one-game suspension.
Catch Game 6 between the Capitals and Penguins Monday night at 7 p.m. on WFED 1500AM. Pregame coverage begins at 6:45 p.m. with John Walton, Ken Sabourin & Ben Raby.
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