- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2012

Nicklas Backstrom attended the Washington Capitals’ casino night Friday and hosted a team Super Bowl party — good signs for his morale if nothing else.

But there’s no time frame for his return to the ice after a Jan. 3 concussion and subsequent setback.

“I’m doing good. It’s a long process, but I’m getting better,” Backstrom said Saturday in his first English interview since Jan. 6 in San Jose. “Obviously, you want to be out there and play with the team. But this is the situation now; you’ve got to deal with it.”

It has been 40 days since Rene Bourque’s elbow gave the Caps’ MVP a concussion. Backstrom was back on the ice two days later and skated two days in a row before suffering a setback after practice at HP Pavilion. He has skated a grand total of five minutes in the past 36 days.

“I’ve been doing the bike. I think I’m improving. It takes time, but I’m on a good program right now,” Backstrom said. “So hopefully I get better soon.”

Backstrom said he was undergoing the same “process” as Jay Beagle, more commonly known as the NHL protocol for players with concussions or concussion-related symptoms. That Beagle is playing again after missing 31 games with a concussion was something Backstrom pointed to for optimism, but he’s not close to being back yet.

“I’m not a hundred percent to skate right now, so we’ll see when it’s going to be time for me to take the ice,” he said. “Right now, I’m taking it day by day and see how I feel.”

Beagle, who suffered a concussion in a fight with Arron Asham on Oct. 13, returned Dec. 28. He was happy trainer Greg Smith and team doctors were so careful with him.

“You’ve got to be smart with it. If it takes a year, if it takes two months, you don’t really know,” Beagle said. “You’ve got to wait till those symptoms subside, and in the meantime just try and stay positive through it and know that eventually it will get better.”

Backstrom didn’t divulge the status of his symptoms, but the idea that he can ride a stationary bike appears to be a good sign. Not being on the ice tempers any real optimism, of course, as does the 24-year-old’s comment to a Swedish newspaper that he hopes to be back for the playoffs.

Asked again Saturday if he had any idea when he’d be back playing, Backstrom deflected.

“No, I don’t. If you want that answer, you’ve got to ask Smitty, I think,” he said. “But other than that, we take it day by day and see how it goes.”

Teammates want him around and want him back as soon as possible. But they understand what Backstrom’s going through cannot be rushed.

“It is what it is. He has to take care of his body. Obviously, for myself, I don’t try to think about it,” defenseman Roman Hamrlik said. “We miss him on the ice. I have to say he’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with. Hopefully, the sooner he’s going to get back to help our team win more hockey games.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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