- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2012

Michal Neuvirth turned aside shots in practice and looked to be showing few ill-effects from a lower-body injury suffered in the final week of the regular season. What’s not obvious is how the Washington Capitals goaltender is feeling.

“Obviously, you need a lot of painkillers and try to get through the pain,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”

The pain remains for Neuvirth, but it’s not enough to keep him out of uniform any longer. While Braden Holtby is entrenched as the starter, the 24-year-old will return to backup duty for the Caps in Game 5 of the first-round series Saturday at the Boston Bruins.

He and coach Dale Hunter confirmed that Friday, hours after the team sent journeyman goalie Dany Sabourin down to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League in advance of the start of the Calder Cup playoffs.

“Obviously, it’s good to be back,” Neuvirth said. “Obviously, Sabby got to play down there, and that’s why I’ll be the backup.”

Neuvirth was injured April 5 when Florida Panthers forward Marco Sturm fell on him awkwardly. His progress has been gradual since, and it’s still not perfect.

“Obviously it’s not going to be 100 percent,” Neuvirth said. “This thing’s got to heal up over the summer, and it is what it is.”

Backstrom apologizes to Caps

Nicklas Backstrom wasn’t eager Wednesday to talk about his one-game suspension, saying it was “stupid on my part” to get that punishment for cross-checking Bruins forward Rich Peverley in the face Monday.

After the Caps managed to win Game 4 without him, Backstrom was eager to move past the ban.

“Yeah. I mean, you’ve got to think that way,” he said Friday. “I apologized in front of everybody, so I’m just looking forward. Life goes on. It’s a new game Saturday and you can’t really do anything else.”

Backstrom is expected to get thrown right back onto the top line Saturday.

“When you add a top forward in the National Hockey League back to your lineup, it helps on your penalty kill, power play and even strength,” Hunter said. “We know Nicky is a special player, we missed him all year, but when we get him back in he’s a big boost for us.”

Line rushes from Friday’s practice seemed to indicate Mike Knuble remaining in the lineup and Joel Ward coming out. Hunter said he hadn’t decided yet.

Erskine shines

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