By all accounts, Nicklas Backstrom is doing well physically.
“I haven’t felt better,” the Washington Capitals star center said.
His lungs are good. His legs are good. He was competing well in battle drills with Jay Beagle Friday. Now, it’s a matter of being another sense of readiness for his return from a concussion suffered in January.
“I think it’s more about that you’re worried about hitting the head again and maybe I’m out for longer than three months,” Backstrom said. “That’s the biggest problem I see. You just got to be mentally ready to face a hockey game.”
Mixed signals were there from Backstrom, coach Dale Hunter and others around the Caps. No one is ruling the 24-year-old out for Saturday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, but officially no one is saying he’s definitely in, either.
If Hunter knows, he’s not telling.
“He looks good but we want to make sure. It’s a day-to-day thing,” the Caps’ coach said. “We just monitor him every day and see how he is, he was good out here today. He was real good today.”
Also, Backstrom isn’t telling.
“There’s no target date. It depends how I feel. Everything’s possible,” he said when asked if it was possible to play Saturday. “It’s possible that I could play last game, too. It depends how I feel tomorrow and this afternoon and stuff. I felt good out there today, too, so we’ll see.”
It was hard to read body language, though Backstrom seemed hesitant about being “mentally ready,” while Hunter appeared in a good mood about Backstrom’s progress.
The advice Backstrom has gotten from other players who returned from concussions was about caution.
“You got to be sure that you’re ready to go back there,” he said. “As I said before, it’s tough, especially when it’s not a lot of games left, too. You got to make sure you’re a hundred percent, even if it’s not a lot of games left.”