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Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom returns to practice after suffering migraine vs. Kings

By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 5, 2010; D03

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom was on the ice again Monday morning, less two days after missing the final 39 minutes of a 2-1 loss to Los Angeles because of a migraine headache.

The team's second-leading scorer participated fully throughout the one-hour practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and said he felt no ill effects from Saturday's game. Backstrom said the migraine came on after he absorbed a blow early in the second period.

"I get migraines sometimes when I get, like, a hit to the head or something," said Backstrom, who leads Washington with 31 assists. "That's about it. You need a couple hours to recover, and then one day off [Sunday], so I feel good."

Backstrom, one of the team's most durable players, has missed parts of three games during his NHL career because of migraines. He has, however, played in every game since joining the Capitals in 2007.

Backstrom had to leave a game last season against Montreal because of a migraine, but he said he doesn't concern himself with potential onset of the often excruciating headaches until symptoms arise.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light, according to the National Institutes of Health, and many individuals experience a throbbing pain on one side of the head.

"First of all you can't see; like you see blurry," Backstrom said. "Then your body gets numb, and then the headache is like, well, take a normal headache times 10."

One of the most prominent instances of an athlete suffering from a migraine in a game was former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis, who missed the second quarter of Super Bowl XXXII while trying to calm the pain. Davis came back for the second half and finished with 157 yards and three touchdowns on his way to being named MVP in a 31-24 win against Green Bay.

"I've played games too with it," said Backstrom, who added he sometimes takes medication for the headaches but that it doesn't always work. "It's not easy. It makes it twice as hard."

Semin leaves practice

While Backstrom was able to practice without incident, linemate Alexander Semin wasn't as fortunate. The winger left practice with an undisclosed ailment, but Coach Bruce Boudreau said he didn't believe it was serious.

"According to Alexander Semin, he's fine," Boudreau said. "He just felt something today, and he said it's better to be maintenance-free, not push it, and he'll be fine tomorrow, according to the trainers."

Boudreau declined to be more specific regarding the nature of the injury.

Setback for Varlamov

The Capitals received more discouraging news regarding goalie Semyon Varlamov, who has been out since Dec. 7 with a groin injury. In a conditioning stint Sunday for Hershey of the American Hockey League, Varlamov suffered what the team is calling a lower-body injury and will be out perhaps another two weeks.

"Varly, Varly, Varly," Boudreau said when asked for an update on the status of his top goalie this season. "Tweaked an old injury last night, so he's been put back a little bit. We were hoping that after his Hershey game he'd be able to come back in here and play. That's not the case, so he's at least a week away."

Varlamov stopped 28 of 29 shots in the Bears' 4-1 victory over the Adirondack Phantoms and played the entire game but afterward needed extensive treatment. Washington goalie coach Arturs Irbe told reporters he did not think the injury was significant because Varlamov was able to finish the game and he would be "day-to-day."

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