Updated 12:11 p.m.: After missing 37 games and nearly three months with a concussion, Nicklas Backstrom took a big step forward in his recovery on Saturday morning.
The Capitals’ star center has been cleared for full participation in practice with no restrictions and Backstrom was on the ice with a dozen teammates for an optional practice at KCI this morning. This session marks the first time he has taken full part in an on-ice workout with his teammates since Jan. 6 in San Jose.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for 2 and 1/2 months,” said a grinning Backstrom after the workout. “I’m kind of happy right now. It’s good to practice with the guys; feels pretty good out there. I haven’t been skating long but it feels alright right now.”
Backstrom has been symptom free since he began skating on March 13 and the center has been on the ice for 10 of the past 11 days.
Now that he has been cleared for practice, the 24-year-old Swede must work his way back into game shape without suffering any setbacks and then undergo neuropsychological testing according to the Capitals’ head athletic trainer Greg Smith.
Once Backstrom passes that test, the results of which will be compared to his baseline level that was established during training camp, he will need to be cleared by team physicians before getting back into a game.
It’s tough to gauge exactly how much time Backstrom might need regain his playing shape, so there remains no timetable for when he could return to the lineup.
“It’s kind of like it feels like youre back in training camp. It takes a little time, it feels good,” Backstrom said. “Give me a couple more practices – I don’t know how long -- we’ll see but I can tell it feels good and see what happens.”
Backstrom reiterated that he must continue to be cautious with his recovery.
“I want to be back as soon as possible but you’ve gotta be careful and make sure you’re 100 percent before you go back,” Backstrom said. “You don’t want to get any setbacks and that’s what we’re looking forward to. I’m hoping I can be back as soon as possible, that’s my goal.”
Backstrom suffered the concussion on Jan. 3 when he was elbowed in the head by then-Calgary forward Rene Bourque. Despite his lengthy absence, though, Backstrom remains fourth on the team in points with 42 (13 goals, 29 assists).
More on Backstrom’s injury and recovery from Post Sports:
— Backstrom stresses caution with his recovery (Mar. 15)
— Backstrom ramps up his workouts (Mar. 15)
— Backstrom visiting family in Sweden (Mar. 5)
— Still not ready to skate (Feb. 11)
— Rene Bourque elbows Backstrom (Jan. 4)