As the NHL’s trade deadline passed on Feb. 27, General Manager George McPhee stood pat. While he explained the reasoning behind keeping the roster he assembled last summer intact, McPhee also gave the group a vote of confidence in stating that the Capitals were not to be underestimated when Nicklas Backstrom returned to the lineup.

“If Nicky Backstrom came back, it certainly would improve our chances of being able to win a Cup,” McPhee said on Feb. 27. “We can make the playoffs with this team. And if he comes back, we can beat anybody in this conference.”

Fast forward to today when the Capitals held their first postseason practice with a healthy Backstrom back in the fold. The 24-year-old center certainly isn’t back to where he was prior to missing 40 games with a concussion, but Backstrom played in the four final regular season games and showed signs of his old self against the New York Rangers on Saturday.

After Monday’s workout concluded, McPhee was asked if he felt the same way he did back at the trade deadline about Backstrom’s presence being the x-factor.

“We’re just happy he’s back. We’re happy that we’re practicing here today preparing for the playoffs and we’re happy that Nicky’s back playing hockey and he’s healthy,” McPhee said. “He’s only played four games obviously, so we have to be realistic. But he’s improving, and we’re happy he’s a hockey player again.”

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On Hockey: Caps have reason for optimism
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Complete first-round playoff schedule