SAN JOSE, Calif. — It didn't matter that Nicklas Backstrom was all smiles and talked about feeling "pretty good" after Thursday's practice. Head injuries are mysteries and symptoms can come and go.
So when Backstrom wasn't on the ice with the rest of the Washington Capitals' players Friday morning at HP Pavilion, there was at least brief concern.
"Yeah, unfortunately these things happens," defenseman Roman Hamrlik said. "You don't want to see that, especially with your best player on the team."
But Backstrom's appearance was only delayed 15 minutes because of a precautionary evaluation, a welcome relief along with the likelihood that he'll play Saturday night at the San Jose Sharks.
"I feel pretty good, actually," Backstrom said. "I think I'm ready to go. That's my thoughts."
Backstrom's thoughts aren't all that matter, though, and it's up to the Caps' training staff to make the official call. But the 24-year-old center practiced on the second line Friday alongside Marcus Johansson and Mike Knuble and didn't appear to show any ill-effects from the elbow to the head he took Tuesday night from Calgary's Rene Bourque.
"It's looking good, but we're still evaluating," coach Dale Hunter said. "But he looks good."
Backstrom only missed the final 3:19 of Tuesday's game and took three more shifts after the elbow, but he did not skate Wednesday and was evaluated then for a possible concussion. He has a history of migraines, though the team has not disclosed the extent of the injury.
When he skated Thursday, there was little doubt that Backstrom would accompany the team to California. Involved was a roughly five and a half hour flight that did not cause any issues.
"I didn't have any problem. I slept a little bit," Backstrom said. "I didn't feel any weird things."
That's good news for all involved. Backstrom is the team's leading scorer with 13 goals and 29 assists and plays in all situations. As Johansson noted, Backstrom not playing is "not fun for anybody."
"Everybody wants Nicky to play," he said. "He's one of those guys that can win games. We need him, every game."
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