Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom could return for Game 4 vs. Lightning


ARLINGTON, Va. — Nicklas Backstrom took part in the Washington Capitals morning skate and will be a game-time decision for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning (8:00 p.m.; WFED 1500AM).

Backstrom has missed four consecutive games with a hand injury, but has been ramping up his on-ice activity over the past week. This morning he rotated in on Washington’s third line during line rushes, skating alongside Chandler Stephenson and Brett Connolly.

Backstrom also took his usual reps with the Capitals’ No.1 power-play unit, which suggests a return could be imminent. Head coach Barry Trotz maintained that Backstrom remains day-to-day and has not been medically cleared.

“It would be pretty cool,” Alex Ovechkin said of Backstrom’s potential return. “So, we’ll see. He wants to [be] back. He wants to be part of the success and he’s our best center. 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.”

If Backstrom returns, it’s unclear who might come out of the lineup. Backstrom rotated with Andre Burakovsky during line rushes, but Burakovsky took reps with No.2 power-play unit during the morning skate.

The Capitals lead the series 2-games-to-1, but Tampa Bay is coming off a convincing 4-2 win in Game 3 Tuesday. Victor Hedman had a goal and two assists for the Lightning, while Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point had a goal and an assist each. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was named the game’s first star after he turned aside 36 of 38 shots.

With our without Backstrom in Game 4, the Capitals must limit Tampa Bay’s power play. The Lightning have scored at least once power-play goal in all three games of the East Final and they are 5-for-12 overall in the series. Dating back to their second-round series against the Boston Bruins, the Lightning have scored a power-play goal in eight consecutive games.

Tampa Bay built a 2-0 lead early in the second period of Game 3 thanks to PPGs from Stamkos and Kucherov. Stamkos’ goal was off a one-timer from the left faceoff circle; Kucherov’s off a one-timer from the right circle.

“The one area we want to adjust is just limiting it to one option instead of having both,” said goaltender Braden Holtby. “It makes it tricky on everyone when both options are available. You can’t anticipate as well, you have to react more. It makes for a little bit of a delay. So, we’re going to make some adjustments and I’m going to fight harder for those sight lines.”

Catch Game 4 between the Capitals and Lightning at 8:00 p.m. on WFED 1500AM. Pregame coverage begins at 7:45 p.m. with John Walton, Ken Sabourin & Ben Raby.

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