Nicklas Backstrom has no timetable to return

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ARLINGTON, Va. – A cast remains on Nicklas Backstrom’s fractured left thumb, and there it might stay for a little while.

The Capitals center won’t play Sunday against the Blackhawks for sure and has no timetable to return to the lineup.

“It’s kinda hard to tell because I have this cast on me,” Backstrom said. “I think that when I take this off, we’ll see. We’ll go from there. It’s still sore and we said we wanted to get back to 100 percent.”

Backstrom, who fractured his thumb Feb. 21 against the Penguins, doesn’t even have an idea when the cast will be removed – “We’ll see what happens with the doctors. I don’t really know right now.”

He was wearing an orange jersey signifying no contact at Saturday’s practice and Kettler Capitals Iceplex, so it’s not stunning that he ruled himself out for the Chicago game. He’s having trouble gripping his stick but is staying in shape by being on the ice.

And as bizarre as it is for him to watch games, he’s not rushing either.

“It’s kinda hard when you’ve been playing all the games. It’s a little different situation right now. But it is what it is. That’s life I guess,” Backstrom said. “Obviously you wanna play, but at the same time you have to make sure you’re 100 percent, I think. That’s what’s important right now.

With Backstrom out, Marcus Johansson gets that spot between Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble. What everyone’s seeing out of Johansson now is what coach Bruce Boudreau called the “growth of a hockey player.” It also doesn’t hurt that he’s playing with Ovechkin.

“It’s showcasing him because he’s now playing with Alex,” Boudreau said. “The biggest thing is Marcus has always had a lot of talent and is gonna be a very good player. From the beginning it’s his consistency. And now as the season wears on and you’re into almost game 70, he’s being more consistent.”

Consistency had been the name of the game for Backstrom before the injury. And while he was short on information about a return, he remains optimistic.

“Hopefully I can get back soon and be ready to play,” he said.

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