After working with the same personal coach the past four years, Nicklas Backstrom decided to switch up his offseason conditioning routine with the understanding that this year there will be tougher workouts, practices and a more serious tone around the Capitals’ dressing room.
Back in his hometown of Gavle, Sweden, Backstrom began training both on and off the ice with former speed skater Sebastian Falk. When the 23-year-old center worked out Friday at KCI for the first time since last season, he looked crisp.
“I try to get better every year when I go home but I wanted to try something new,” said Backstrom, who trained with fellow Gavle natives and NHL prospects Jacob Markstrom, a goaltender in the Panthers’ system, and Ludvig Rensfeldt, who was drafted by Chicago in 2010.
“I’ve been doing more work on my skating, to get more speed out there. I’ve been working on just getting those first couple steps a little better, faster; that’s important to me. I think that can really help my game.”
It might have been the first on ice session in Washington for Backstrom, along with Alex Ovechkin, Marcus Johansson and Mattias Sjogren, but at the end of the workout they skated laps and sprints instructed by strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish.
That’s just the very beginning, though, and Backstrom said he’s looking forward to the more rigorous practice environment that is expected from the Capitals this year beginning with training camp.
“I think it’s right for everyone to have it tougher,” Backstrom said. “We have to make sure we do it because it will make us feel better, play better all season and in the playoffs. It will be a good thing for us. To work harder will not hurt us.”
In addition to conditioning, Backstrom went further when asked about the tone of the 2011-12 season and the expectations for a team that isn’t so young anymore.
“I think it’s time for us to grow up,” Backstrom said. “I can speak for myself and it’s time for me to make sure I take better responsibilities out there the way the coaches want me to and with my own performance. It started this summer.”