- U.S., China race to finish line on ‘invisibility cloak’
- Obama ‘cavalier’ in hiding foreign aid order, judge rules
- Prince Charles: Muslims are driving Christians from Mideast through persecution
- Gitmo’s first commander: Close the prison down
- Google’s newest photography find: Just wink and shoot
- Detroit’s Heidelberg art project hit by 8 fires in 8 months
- Pa. police pull people over for random DNA tests for feds
- NASA pushing hard to get back into space game
- Harvard student to face federal charges for bomb hoax
- Ronnie Biggs of ‘Great Train Robbery’ fame dies, 84
WHYNO: Nicklas Backstrom’s well-being for future is the Capitals’ ultimate goal
Washington Capitals players tapped their sticks on the ice as fans cheered when Nicklas Backstrom stepped onto the ice Saturday for his first practice with the team in more than two months. A concussion has sidelined him since early January, and it was clear at that moment and many others that the Caps miss him. Badly.
“Everybody knows we miss him,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “He’s that kind of guy we need right now.”
Coming down the stretch, of course the Caps could use Backstrom, who was on his way to an All-Star appearance before Rene Bourque’s elbow to the head derailed his season. A trip to the playoffs is on the line, with each game being called “he biggest game of the year” or the “seventh game” of a playoff series. It’d be nice to have the team MVP around.
“The beginning of the season he was probably one of the best players in the league if not the best player in the league. He was playing lights-out for us,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “He is a massive part of this team that we would love to have and need to have.”
But this isn’t a broken thumb, like what Backstrom played through in last year’s playoffs. This isn’t a hip pointer, which defenseman John Carlson finished the Tampa Bay series with. This is a concussion, a brain injury that can linger even into retirement.
So despite the high stakes, it would be foolish to rush him back. General manager George McPhee, even in announcing Tuesday that Backstrom passed a neuropsychological test with “flying colors,” agreed.
“I would’ve liked him in the lineup 50 games ago. Obviously, he’s a terrific player, but it’s got to be his decision,” McPhee said. “We’re not going to put any pressure on him to play. He’s got to be comfortable. We’re not going to put this kid at risk by telling him we need him to play.”
Backstrom is the franchise’s building block down the middle, and the chances of winning the Stanley Cup this season are absurdly remote even if he does return.
That’s mostly because this Backstrom won’t be 100 percent right away. Defenseman Mike Green, who returned from his concussion last season just in time for Game 1 of the playoffs, smiled and said: “With Nicky, you never know, he’s so good. He can probably come back and be fine.” There still will be a major adjustment.
Nicklas Backstrom in late March and early April won’t be the same Nicklas Backstrom who had 13 goals and 39 assists Jan. 3. The 24-year-old remained the Caps’ leading scorer until Feb. 9 despite missing those 16 games.
Backstrom admitted Saturday that this process of getting back into game shape is like being back in training camp. But as much as he wants to play, he has seen Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, teammate Jay Beagle and others go through this process and appreciates the severity of concussions.
“I want to be back as soon as possible, but you’ve got to be careful and make sure you’re a hundred percent before you go back because you don’t want to get any setbacks,” Backstrom said. “That’s what we’re looking forward to and hope that I can be back as soon as possible. That’s my goal.”
Tuesday, coach Dale Hunter refused to speculate about how close Backstrom is to playing, deferring to trainer Greg Smith.
“I don’t know,” Hunter said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Wait. And wait. And wait some more. If the Caps can’t manage to beat the Montreal Canadiens this weekend at home and the Tampa Bay Lightning on the road next week without Backstrom, they don’t deserve to make the playoffs.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- WHYNO: Tomas Vokoun gets unexpected Stanley Cup shot with Penguins
- Brandon Meriweather, Redskins' secondary ready for bounceback year
- Kirk Cousins embraces role as Redskins' offseason starter as RG3 rehabs from injury
- Capitals notes: Realignment won't prompt roster remake
- Despite Caps' first-round playoff exit, Adam Oates' first season as coach left a positive taste
Latest Blog Entries
- Redskins injury updates (5/23): WR Pierre Garcon, CB Josh Wilson each had labrum surgery
- Capitals 'love' Matt Hendricks, but how much?
- Wojtek Wolski signs in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League
- Tom Poti won't return to Capitals, plans to continue his NHL career
- Is Tom Wilson ready to be a regular for Capitals?
By John R. Bolton
The president fiddles at his domestic altar while the world burns
- U.S. Army mulls wiping out memory of Robert E. Lee, 'Stonewall' Jackson
- Gov't wasted $30 billion on 'pillownauts,' crystal goblets -- buying human urine!
- Half of America strips religion from Christmas
- BOLTON: Nero in the White House
- We told you so: Conservatives foresaw polygamy ruling
- EDITORIAL: Al Gore, soothsayer
- Obama mocks Putin, picks gay athletes for Sochi delegation
- Top Democrats reject court ruling over NSA spying on Americans
- Army to cut up to 4,000 captains and majors
- HURT: D.C. gets the vapors, calls sequester too much
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Human interest stories to feed interest, satisfy curiosity and see outside the box.
The cold hard truth about politics in America today and the state of this once great nation.
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow