ESTERO, Fla. — Still working back from offseason hip surgery, Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is expected to remain sidelined through the team’s seven-game preseason exhibition slate, Coach Barry Trotz said Saturday.
“Backie is still the same,” Trotz said at Germain Arena, where the Capitals are participating in a four-team prospects tournament “He’s skating and if he keeps going, he’ll keep progressing and get cleared at some point to come to the main group. Once he comes to the main group, I think he’s a few weeks away. That won’t be for a little while. I don’t expect him to be playing in any of the exhibition games. I really don’t. If they tell me yes, then I’ll be happy.”
Otherwise, the Capitals might begin the regular season without the services of their first-line center and alternate captain, though Backstrom isn’t expected to sit much longer. After undergoing the arthroscopic operation in late May, Backstrom has taken his time with rehabilitation, preaching a better-safe-than-sorry approach for his recovery. Backstrom recently conducted a simulate skate test with strength coach Mark Nemish, another important step forward as mobility and strength in his hip return.
“It’s obviously not fun to not know, but on the other hand, I’m not in a rush,” he said last week. “I’m going to be back to 100 percent before I start playing. I’m not going to play on 90 percent. We’ll see how it goes. We don’t know yet.”
>> Despite having wrist surgery less than seven weeks ago and participating sporadically in on-ice workouts with his teammates at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, defenseman Brooks Orpik isn’t expected to miss time, even during the preseason. It’s a more optimistic outlook than what the Capitals announced in their release at the time, predicting Orpik would return “in time for the regular season.”
“He’ll be fine,” Trotz said. “I expect him to play in some exhibition games and be ready to go.”
>> Earlier this week, Trotz said he told forwards Michael Latta, Brooks Laich and Andre Burakovsky all to prepare for time at both center and wing during training camp. Between those three and Jay Beagle, the Capitals have plenty of options for filling out their bottom-six spots down the middle, and Trotz has already suggested the possibility of tabbing a third-line center based on situation and opponent.
“I talked to them, to be ready to play both,” Trotz said. “I think they’re going to have to do that. We’ll see. We’ll try to make the best decision on that.”
Forward Marcus Johansson, Trotz said, will “definitely” open training camp on the wing, Trotz said.