Nicklas Backstrom ‘absolutely’ will face Bruins; Jack Hillen sidelined (updated)

March 27

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Updated 1:30 p.m.: Nicklas Backstrom was back on the ice Thursday morning for practice and said he won’t miss any time after a hard check from Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty forced him to leave Tuesday’s game in the second period.

It’s a positive development for the Capitals, who certainly didn’t want to lose their top center as they make their final push to the playoffs over the last nine games of the regular season.

“I didn’t feel that good after that hit, had a day off and I feel way better today,” Backstrom said. “I was able to practice full practice and that’s a good thing.”

Asked if he would be able to face the Bruins Saturday afternoon, Backstrom responded, “Absolutely.”

Backstrom left Washington’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Kings with 5 minutes 7 seconds gone in the second period after he was upended by Doughty on an awkward hit. The 26-year-old center tried to avoid the contact but that ultimately resulted in him being sent in the air and his head hitting the curved portion of the glass at the bench.

“I saw he was there and I was trying to jump around him on the outside but hit the edge of the boards [and went up],” Backstrom said. “Bad luck but what’s important is I’m feeling better now and looking forward to the next game.”

Backstrom didn’t appear to have any limitation in practice and was in good enough spirits to even joke about the hit, saying it “looked really funny, actually.”

Washington Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen (38) and Los Angeles Kings left wing Kyle Clifford (13) keep their eye on the puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

>> Jack Hillen, however, did not take part in Thursday’s on-ice session. The defenseman suffered what the team will only describe as an upper-body injury during a violent collision with Alex Ovechkin 2:22 through overtime against the Kings.

Coach Adam Oates said Hillen was not undergoing concussion protocol testing but wouldn’t rule out the defenseman for Saturday’s contest.

“Just sore from the hit,” Oates said. “Because we have a couple of days we told him to take another day off.”

Hillen, who missed 60 games earlier this year because of a fractured tibial plateau, lay motionless on the ice for several seconds after he skated directly into Ovechkin with both players moving at full speed through the neutral zone. In January 2013, Marcus Johansson suffered a concussion when he collided with Ovechkin during a training camp scrimmage.

With Hillen missing it looks like John Erskine skated with Mike Green during drills. Erskine has missed eight consecutive games, sitting out as a healthy scratch for the last seven.

>> Mikhail Grabovski, who has missed 21 of the last 22 games with a sprained left ankle, is taking part in a third straight practice but continues to rotate in as an extra forward.

“It feels much better, more strong than before the Florida game,” Grabovski said, referencing the Feb. 27 contest in which he re-injured the ankle against the Panthers.

While Oates left open the possibility of Grabovski facing Boston Saturday, he believes the veteran center needs to be mentally confident in his ability to return as much as physically able to.

“He came back and got hurt right away I think for him number one he’s got to feel really mentally ready that he can play,” Oates said. “I’m not totally sure he’s there. I haven’t talked to him about it yet because we were on the road and I hadn’t really seen him practice, but we’ve got a couple days now so I’ll see how he is tomorrow and move forward.”

>>Here’s the lineup the Capitals are using in practice:

Johansson-Beagle-Ovechkin
Kuznetsov-Backstrom-Brouwer
Chimera-Fehr-Ward
Penner-Brown-Wilson
Grabovski, Volpatti as extras

Alzner-Carlson
Erskine-Green
Orlov-Wey
Carrick

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