Jan. 3 — In the third period of the Washington Capitals' 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames at Verizon Center, Rene Bourque lifted his right elbow up and struck Nicklas Backstrom in the jaw. Backstrom stayed in the game briefly but had to come out.
“We just removed him from the game,” Caps coach Dale Hunter said that night. “It was precautionary, and he’s getting evaluated right now. We’ll know more tomorrow.”
Backstrom’s teammates were less than pleased with the elbow.
“The puck isn’t even close, and it’s very, very unnecessary,” fellow Swede Marcus Johansson said.
Jan. 4 — Backstrom did not skate as the Caps held an optional practice. His brother, Kristoffer, posted on Twitter that Washington’s leading scorer underwent concussion testing to determine whether the injury was that or an aggravation of migraines. Kristoffer Backstrom tweeted that it was inconclusive.
Jay Beagle, who suffered a concussion in October, called the elbow “uncalled for,” and Troy Brouwer said “it kind of sucks because we’re not able to play [Bourque and the Flames] again this year.”
Later that day, the NHL suspended Bourque five games for what VP of player safety Brendan Shanahan called a “reckless” and “indefensible” play.
Jan. 5 — Backstrom took the ice with his teammates for practice, doing line rushes and smiling and laughing like everything was all right.
“I felt pretty good out there. I’m just following all the steps that has to be made,” an upbeat Backstrom said. “I’m doing what they tell me to do, so we’ll see.”
Soon after, Hunter sounded relieved when saying “it’s better than we thought, which is good for us.” Backstrom boarded the team charter to California for the Caps’ two-game road trip at San Jose, Calif., and Los Angeles.
Jan. 6 — Backstrom was not on the ice as the Caps stepped on for practice at HP Pavilion in San Jose, and a team spokesman said he was still being evaluated. Sure enough, he came on about 15 minutes late, switched into the right jersey for his line and shrugged off concern.
“I feel pretty good, actually,” Backstrom said. “I think I’m ready to go. That’s my thoughts.”
Jan. 7 — Backstrom was conspicuously absent from the morning skate, as the Caps went through line rushes with it looking evident that he would be out. Hunter confirmed soon after that Backstrom was indeed being held out.