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Posted at 09:56 AM ET, 03/14/2012

Can Caps expect Nicklas Backstrom to return to form?

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS | Nicklas Backstrom had 13 goals and 29 assists in 38 games before being sidelined with a head injury after taking an elbow to the head from Rene Bourque in the Caps’ 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames.

Update: Backstrom skates today for 20 minutes at Kettler

You only need to look at the team's points leaders to get a quick sense of what Backstrom means to the club: Despite missing 31 games he remains the Capitals’ second-best playmaker, just three shy of Wideman's team-leading 32 assists.

It is becoming more and more likely that the Capitals’ No. 1 pivot will not suit up again this season, but can fans expect the Swede to be a regular fixture in the lineup next year?

League injury reports show 28 players were put on injured reserved last season for either a concussion, post-concussion symptoms or a head injury, double the amount reported in 2009-10. This season there have been 63 players put on injured reserved for those types of injuries – more than the previous three years combined.

On average, forwards who are put on injured reserve for head-related injuries play just 45 games during the season the injury occurs. But two-thirds return to play more than 65 games the following season.

That's good news for Washington. Centers like Backstrom are rare enough, and with the free agent market for top-six centers thin over the next few years, the Capitals are going to need their best player on the ice if they are to be legitimate Cup contenders in the future.

Follow Neil on Twitter: @ngreenberg | Capitals’ scoring chances

By Neil Greenberg  |  09:56 AM ET, 03/14/2012

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