After leaving the Capitals’ shootout loss to the Kings on Tuesday with an undisclosed upper-body injury, center Nicklas Backstrom said Thursday that he will “absolutely” play Saturday against the Bruins.
Backstrom absorbed a heavy check from Kings defenseman Drew Doughty along the boards near the Washington bench. His unsuccessful attempt to avoid the hit sent him crashing to the ice, but not before hitting his head on the curved glass at the end of the bench.
“I saw [Doughty] 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’s health is vital to Washington’s push toward a playoff spot with nine games remaining.
Elsewhere in the lineup, defenseman Jack Hillen did not practice Thursday after being forced to leave Tuesday’s game following a violent collision with right wing Alex Ovechkin near center ice during overtime. Hillen has been plagued with bad luck during his two seasons in Washington, having missed 85 of the Capitals’ 121 regular-season games with a variety of ailments.
Coach Adam Oates, however, said Hillen was “just sore from the hit” and did not rule him out for Saturday.
Oates also left open the possibility of center Mikhail Grabovski returning from his sprained left ankle after missing 21 of the past 22 games.
The 30-year-old recently resumed practicing with his teammates and feels better physically.
“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. … We’ve got a couple days now so I’ll see how he is [Friday] and move forward.”