Jay Beagle knows what Nicklas Backstrom is going through with his concussion. As the Washington Capitals' leading scorer sits out, unable to play or even skate, the fourth-liner who missed 31 games earlier this season can empathize.
But he can't help.
Concussions are so unique that there's not much Beagle can say. But even if he could, Backstrom isn't around the team very often to soak it all in. Backstrom told a Swedish news agency it's too "frustrating" to be around the rink and be unable to play.
"That's the worst part is coming in and not being able to do anything. Seeing the guys is good for about five minutes and then you're like, 'OK, I want to get back into the routine of things,' and after that it's just terrible being around here," Beagle said. "It's almost better to go home for a couple weeks right after the injury because it's one of the worst things, coming to the rink and not being able to work out or do anything. And mentally, that's just the most frustrating thing."
That's the hard part for the Capitals: managing the desire to see and chat with Backstrom while also realizing the difficulty and painful uncertainty of his injury. Several players glowed about how well-liked the 24-year-old center is.
But no one really understands his plight.
"It's good to see him around because he's a great guy. He's one of the guys that we want in our locker room all the time," right wing Troy Brouwer said. "But I can't imagine how tough it is for him being around hockey and not being able to play. For us, we like having him around, but we don't want to if it's going to be difficult on him."
Backstrom has spent some time around the Caps, but like other NHL stars with concussions such as Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, he has not been a mainstay since the concussion.
Fellow Swede Marcus Johansson talks to Backstrom every day and wants to see his friend and teammate back as soon as possible.
"It's tough for everybody. We need him. He's a big player for us, so I don't think anyone likes that he's not playing at all and that he's not feeling good, either," Johansson said. "He's a great guy, and everyone wants him to feel good. That's the No. 1 priority: to have him feel good again. It's tough to see him not playing."
Several Caps saw Backstrom at his house for a Super Bowl party, which was a nice way to enjoy camaraderie without his seeing a sheet of ice that he can't skate on.
"He's great with doing stuff like that," winger Jason Chimera said. "He wants to be part of the team, obviously doing stuff like that was good to [see] a lot of guys."
Backstrom told the Swedish news agency Gefle Dagblad, as translated by Malin: "I don't know when I will be able to play again, but I hope I will be ready for the playoffs." That's a hope the Caps have, too.
But there still are several steps before Backstrom returns to the lineup, starting with him being symptom-free. As he awaits the day-to-day regimen before getting back, teammates know that there's a need to keep Backstrom's spirits up when he's around.
Johansson said Backstrom's not that bad about being down in the dumps, but positive thoughts and talk can't hurt.
"I think everyone's trying to cheer him up because we all know he loves the game, and he wants to play and it's never fun sitting around watching the other guys play," Johansson said. "It's tough for him. I think everybody understands that."
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