Washington Capitals fans can breathe a little easier. Forward Nicklas Backstrom surprised the team and the fan base this morning when he was cleared to return to practice without any restrictions. The skate this morning was optional as 14 of 24 players attended, and this means he could see game action before the start of the playoffs in a couple weeks. He said to CSN Washington: “It feels good to practice with the guys. I’ve been skating long, but it feels all right right now.”
Backstrom had been out of hockey for most of the 2012 calendar year when he reportedly suffered concussion-like symptoms January 5 after taking an elbow to the head from Rene Bourque, who played with the Calgary Flames at the time. Bourque’s current team- Montreal, will play against Washington next Saturday. It could be unlikely he will return to the ice by then but would be curious to see if he’s able to make his return at that game. Backstrom coming back is a huge help to the Capitals, as they currently sit in the eighth and final playoff spot- and tied with Buffalo with 82 points.
This isn’t the first long-term concussion situation the team has dealt with this season. Center Jay Beagle also sat out over two months with the concussion symptoms he suffered after a fight with Pittsburgh’s Arron Asham on Oct. 13. Beagle needed two weeks of hard skating before he was cleared to play. Backstrom has been skating on his own since March 10 when he returned from Sweden after spending time with his family and said he’s made gradual progress while skating 11 of the past 12 days.
With Backstrom sitting out the past 37 games, the Capitals have gone 16-15-6 without him. When he was in the lineup they were 21-15-2 and he was leading the team with 42 points in 38 games.