The last game Nicklas Backstrom played for the Washington Capitals came Jan. 3 against the Calgary Flames. A dirty elbow from Flames forward Rene Bourque knocked Backstrom out with a concussion.
Not long after and while Bourque was still serving his five-game suspension, Calgary traded him to the Montreal Canadiens.
When Backstrom makes his triumphant return to the Caps’ lineup Saturday night, he’ll face Bourque.
“You know what? I don’t really care about that,” Backstrom said. “It happened, and I’m not going to waste any energy on it.”
A couple weeks ago when he returned to skating, the 24-year-old star center was asked if he still harbored any anger toward Bourque.
“I think it was just unnecessary. That’s all I think,” he responded. “It’s bad luck, too, that I’m out two months and he just missed five games. It is what it is right now.”
From a team perspective, the Caps might be done with Bourque retribution after Matt Hendricks fought him Jan. 18.
“It’s something I’m sure he regrets the hit,” forward Jay Beagle said. “He came out and he fought Hendy and it’s over. It’s hockey and that stuff happens. We’re going to go out there and try to win the game and get two points.”
Backstrom expressed some trepidation Friday about getting hit at full speed in game action once he returns. But coach Dale Hunter wasn’t concerned about his being vulnerable.
“For him to get clipped like he did was a total cheap shot from the blind side it wasn’t a clean hit,” Hunter said. “He has his vision still, he has anticipation of the game, he understands the game, so he’ll be fine that way.”
Of course, Bourque or anybody else could cheap-shot Backstrom anytime.
“It’s one of those things that happens. You see it sprinkled through the league; it doesn’t happen all the time, guys. Just a sprinkle and everybody builds up the one that happens you can count how many games it’s not even 2 percent of the games, something bad like that happens.”
Bourque has not been the player Montreal thought it was getting for Michael Cammalleri. In 34 games, he has five goals and three assists and has lacked the kind of physical presence the Canadiens would have liked.
Told of Bourque’s struggles Friday, and that he’d hardly notice him Saturday night, Backstrom smiled and joked: “OK. If I play, thank you very much.”