On the day Nicklas Backstrom began ramping up the intensity of his workouts, the Caps center acknowledged that the biggest challenge will be avoiding the urge to push himself too hard, too soon.
Sidney Crosby returned from nearly a year off because of a concussion in November and played eight games – racking up 12 points – before leaving the lineup again in December following another head injury. The Penguins’ captain makes his second return tonight against the Rangers.
Crosby’s experience, Backstrom said, has made him more cautious in his approach.
“That’s something I don’t want to do,” said Backstrom, who has been sidelined since Jan. 7.
“I couldn’t understand this injury before I got one,” he added. “It’s so frustrating, but you have to be careful. Your head is very important for the rest of your life. Right now I feel good and hopefully I won’t be in the same situation” as Crosby.
Backstrom did not accompany the team on its critical road trip, which begins Friday in Winnipeg. Instead, he’ll stay behind in Arlington and continue to work with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish. The plan, Backstrom said, is to add intensity to each workout while gradually extending the amount of time he’s on the ice.
But, he stressed again, there is no hurry.
“I’m going to take this slow, I think,” Backstrom said. “I’m not going to rush back. I’ve been out for two months. You want to be out there so bad, especially when you see the guys out there. You just want to practice with them.”
The mere sight of Backstrom on the ice brought a smile to the face of Coach Dale Hunter, who reiterated that the 24-year-old Swede is just beginning what figures to be a lengthy process.
“It’s awesome to see him feeling way better,” Hunter said. “For hockey players to be off the ice that long, it’s grueling [for] him. For him to start feeling good about himself and come back out here and start skating and handle the puck, which he’s [done] since he was five years old.”
“He feels privileged to skate right now,” the coach added. “It’s good for him and it’s good for us to see him out here skating.”
More on the Capitals:
— Ovechkin collision gives Caps a scare
— Nicklas Backstrom skates again
— Kuznetsov says he’ll stay in KHL
— Grubauer makes most of time in ECHL
— Green says his game won’t change