The Capitals failed to pick up two points Tuesday night, falling 5-4 in a shootout to the Los Angeles Kings at Verizon Center. But equally if not more concerning than that unrealized extra point is the uncertain health of both Nicklas Backstrom and Jack Hillen.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty upended Backstrom 5 minutes 3 seconds into the second period on a check near the Capitals’ bench. Doughty flipped Backstrom in the air, sent him into the glass and when the center crashed down to the ice he landed hard on his left shoulder. Russian Machine has a GIF of the hit, here.
Backstrom went to the bench and headed down the tunnel to the dressing room four minutes later and didn’t return to the contest having suffered what the team will only describe as an upper-body injury.
Coach Adam Oates said Backstrom was not undergoing concussion protocol testing and reiterated that the 26-year-old suffered an upper-body injury. It’s possible that the impact of falling to the ice resulted in a shoulder injury for Backstrom.
As the Capitals have learned over the years, there is arguably no player whose absence is more difficult to cope with than Backstrom’s. When he missed 40 games with a concussion during the 2011-12 season the Capitals were without their best playmaker and the void was noticeable both at even strength and on special teams.
“You miss Backy but every team has guys that go out,” Oates said. “You’ve got 19 other guys that got to do the job, we have plenty of guys that can do the job.”
Then 2:22 into overtime Hillen had a violent collision with Alex Ovechkin in the neutral zone. Both players were making their way through center ice and neither one saw the other, leading to a scary scene as Hillen lay motionless on the ice and Ovechkin hunched over stunned from the impact.
“I lose my breathing but I didn’t see him,” Ovechkin said. “I just turned and he came to me, nothing I can do.”
Via Dan Steinberg, here’s the slow-motion replay of the hit.
Ovechkin is listed at 6-3, 230 pounds while Hillen is 5-10, 190 pounds and the defenseman ran directly into the winger cutting full speed through the ice. Despite appearing woozy, Hillen made it off the ice under his own power. Oates said Hillen was being evaluated by team medical personnel after the game and he wasn’t able to provide any more details on the defenseman.
It’s an unfortunate situation for Hillen, who missed 60 games with a fractured tibial plateau this season and has had serious injuries plague his entire career. Here’s the hit and the full aftermath.
The team is off on Wednesday, so expect updates on both Backstrom and Hillen once the Capitals practice again on Thursday morning.