Nicklas Backstrom. (Photo by Patrick Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Washington Capitals may be without Nicklas Backstrom to start the season after all. The 27-year-old center told Swedish media Tuesday that he’s not sure if he’ll be able to play when the Capitals begin the 2015-16 campaign, but that Backstrom is back skating is a good sign for Washington.
There isn’t any reason for Washington Capitals fans to panic quite yet, but star center Nicklas Backstrom told Swedish media Tuesday that he may be forced to miss the beginning of the 2015-16 season following off-season hip surgery.
Backstrom, 27, is currently in the midst of training for the upcoming season, but in an interview with Arbetarbladet’s Daniel Sandstrom, the Capitals pivot said he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to play when Washington opens their campaign Oct. 10.
“No, I do not (know),” Backstrom said when asked if he would be ready for the season. “It is very difficult to answer. We will see here now (after evaluating) with the coach and fitness coach.”
The news that he might not be ready isn’t shocking, but it is surprising after Backstrom told Sverigesradio, a radio station in Sweden, that he was hoping to be able to return to action in October, something he seemed confident about at the time.
In speaking with Sandstrom Tuesday, Backstrom said that he has continued to focus most on getting his full range of motion back in his surgically repaired hip. When he was first recovering from the procedure, which took place in June, even simple motions were difficult.
“There has been considerable focus on enhancing mobility in the hip again,” Backstrom said. “From the beginning I could not run or anything.” He added that it wasn’t until very recently that he was able to get back on the ice.
That Backstrom is back on the ice means he’s likely not too far away, though. He is working out with trainer Andreas Ohgren, who Backstrom called the best trainer in Sweden, and it doesn’t appear the injury will keep him out long once the season begins.
Backstrom had a 18-goal, 78-point year in 2014-15 with the Capitals in a season where he and Alex Ovechkin dominated offensively for Washington. Luckily for the Capitals, even if Backstrom does have to miss one-to-two weeks to begin the campaign, the team is deep enough offensively to still produce. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky are second- and third-line centers that can slide up the lineup to fill the hole made by Backstrom.
And on a team coached by Barry Trotz, there’s no doubt everyone will pick up the slack defensively to make up for the absence of their star center. Missing Backstrom will hurt, but it only means the team will get that much better once he returns to the lineup.