As 10 of his teammates skated at KCI Tuesday morning, Nicklas Backstrom watched part of the workout from the stick room hallway, clad in a winter coat and toque. The Swedish center’s health is one of the biggest questions facing the Capitals heading into a shortened season, and just days away from the start of training camp, Backstrom’s status remains uncertain.
Backstrom suffered a neck injury after falling awkwardly into the boards during a game with Dynamo Moscow on Dec. 26. But despite Backstrom’s presence at the team facility, General Manager George McPhee said he couldn’t offer an update on the center before the new collective bargaining agreement was ratified.
“There are some things we can talk about, some things we can’t, and we can’t talk about the fitness or health of any players until training camp,” McPhee said Tuesday. “I’d be happy then.”
If Backstrom is not medically cleared by team doctors prior to the start of training camp, the Capitals will not have to pay his contract because he was injured during the lockout.
Backstrom played 19 games for Dynamo Moscow, recording 10 goals and 15 assists, prior to the injury alongside Alex Ovechkin, who offered his assessment of the center.
“I think he’s doing well,” Ovechkin said. “It was not a dirty [hit] than was before. But sometimes it’s not hard hit, you just feel a little dizzy. We’ll see how it goes.”
Dizzy isn’t exactly the type of word one wants to hear associated with Backstrom, given that he missed 40 games with a concussion last season.
Backstrom suffered the concussion on Jan. 3 last year after being struck in the head by then-Calgary forward Rene Bourque’s elbow, and after a long layoff, he returned to play four regular season games and 13 of the Capitals’ 14 playoff games.
“I think it’s just a situation, you know, it’s contact game, it’s physical game,” Ovechkin said. “Even in KHL it’s very good level out there. Again, it happens. So nothing you can do.”