- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2016

Nicklas Backstrom said on Monday he is “progressing” in his recovery from an unspecified upper-body injury and remained unsure as to whether he’d play for the Washington Capitals against the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

Backstrom missed each of the Capitals‘ last two games — a victory at the Colorado Avalanche on Friday and a loss at the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday — after taking an open-ice hit in the shootout loss at the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.

The games were the first Backstrom had missed since the start of the season, when his recovery from surgery on one of his hips forced him from the first three contests.

“It’s up to the coach and the [athletic] trainers,” Backstrom said, “…but I’ll be back when I’m 100 percent.”

Backstrom, who wore additional padding on his left elbow, was a full participant in Monday’s practice, rotating into the top two lines during rushes. He had been replaced as the top-line center in each of the Capitals‘ last two games by Marcus Johansson, who played between Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie.

“Nick’s a big part of this team, a big part of this organization, so the sooner we can get him back, the better,” Oshie said. “We want him 100 percent before he comes back, obviously. The big show is important, so if we need to rest him, we’ve got the depth here where guys can step in and have success.”

Backstrom said that had the Capitals already opened postseason play, which will begin next week, he would “maybe” consider playing through the injury. Coach Barry Trotz cut off a question about such a scenario, saying, “I’m not doing the hypotheticals.”

The Capitals clinched the Presidents’ Trophy last week, sewing up the top seed in the Eastern Conference and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Backstrom, though, had been among a number of players who maintained that it was more important for players to finish out the regular season rather than be given games off to rest.

He acknowledged, though, that having time before the start of the playoffs to heal is an advantage.

“We’re in a good position and I mean, we already clinched a playoff spot, so that’s nice,” Backstrom said. “We get a little extra time to get back here.”


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