The Washington Times - January 9, 2013, 10:47AM

Nicklas Backstrom is seeing a specialist prior to training camp after suffering what was believed to be a neck injury while playing in Russia, the Capitals confirmed Wednesday.

Backstrom, who was injured during his Kontinental Hockey League game Dec. 26, has not played since. He’s in the United States but not on the ice with Caps teammates at the team’s practice facility.

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That’s because he’s visiting a specialist in Michigan.

“Nick and his agent informed us that they are being proactive with his injury and decided to visit a specialist prior to training camp,” a Caps spokesman said. “Obviously, as you know until camp officially starts teams cannot perform physicals on any player.”

Reports indicated it was a neck injury, but given Backstrom’s history there might be reason to believe he has a concussion.

General manager George McPhee said that Tuesday, explaining that he cannot talk about health of players until camp begins.

But teammates have kept in touch with Backstrom.

“I’ve been talking to him all along just to keep him informed on what’s going on and just because I love hanging out with the guy. Hopefully nothing is too serious and it’s not going to drag out too long,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “He has to make sure that he’s fully healthy and make sure that he’s ready to go because we don’t want him to come back early just because it’s the start of the season and miss more time. He’s got to do what’s best for him, we’re anxious to get him back and we’re anxious to make sure that he’s playing with us but at the same time we want a fully healthy Nicky Backstrom because he’s a phenomenal player when he is.”

The Caps do not have to pay Backstrom since he was hurt while playing during the lockout.

Backstrom, 25, missed 40 games last season with a concussion suffered Jan. 3, 2012 on an elbow from Rene Bourque. He returned in late March.

Alex Ovechkin, his teammate with Dynamo Moscow in the KHL, mentioned that Backstrom at one point felt “dizzy” after suffered the neck injury in December.

Backstrom seeing a specialist was first reported by the popular fan blog Russian Machine Never Breaks.

Backstrom’s North American agent, has repeatedly declined comment about his client’s injury.

Without Backstrom, the Caps have Mike Ribeiro, Brooks Laich, Jay Beagle, Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson as options down the middle.

It goes without saying that the Caps would miss Backstrom if they have to start the regular season without him.

“I think this team revolves around Nicky Backstrom,” Brouwer said. “I think the way he controls the play, controls the puck and when he’s out there thinking clearly and making sure he makes smart plays, there aren’t many players better than him.”

Said forward Matt Hendricks: “Nicky’s one of our go-to guys in the locker room, go-to guys on the ice, he’s a leader on our team. We’re going to miss him, without a doubt. We’re going to miss the way he plays and the way he produces and things like that. But we’re going to do our best to win hockey games without him if he’s not going to be around.”