Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom will travel with the team to Pittsburgh for Game 6 of the teams’ second-round series, and Coach Barry Trotz said he expects Backstrom to play Monday after suffering an upper-body injury Saturday night.
“He got some maintenance today,” Trotz said Sunday. “We’ll see where he is tomorrow.”
Backstrom’s last shift in Game 5 came 6:48 into the third period, but he seemed to be ailing for most of the game. On a Penguins power play midway through the first period, Backstrom appeared to block a Justin Schultz shot with his hand. For the rest of the game, left wing Chandler Stephenson took the faceoffs for the second line, an indication that Backstrom may have been attempting to play through an injury.
The Capitals are already without two of their regular top-six forwards — Andre Burakovsky is injured, and Tom Wilson is suspended for one more game — so losing Backstrom could be devastating even with Washington holding a 3-2 series edge. Backstrom had 21 goals and 50 assists in the regular season, and he has three goals and 10 assists through 11 playoff games. He centers the Capitals’ second line with T.J. Oshie and Stephenson, a group that has had the tall task of containing Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and his linemates. Backstrom also plays on Washington’s top power play and kills penalties.
“You’re always concerned any time that you’ve got anybody that’s nicked up at this time of year,” Trotz said. “There’s concern. But we’ll see where we are tomorrow.”
On Saturday night, Trotz said defenseman John Carlson was being evaluated after taking what he considered to be a “high hit” from Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel late in the game. Carlson didn’t comment on the hit, but Trotz seemed to lobby for the league’s Department of Player Safety to take action. “I know the standard has been set, so I’m going to leave it up to the league,” Trotz said, referring to Wilson’s three-game suspension. “It was a head shot, in my opinion. An unsuspecting, high hit.”
Guentzel won’t face any supplemental discipline; the NHL saw it as a full-body hit. Trotz said he thinks Carlson will be “fine” for Game 6. Burakovsky hasn’t played since Game 2 of Washington’s first-round series against Columbus, and although he has been skating on his own this past week, he won’t travel with the team for Game 6.
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