Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom wasn’t on the ice for the team’s practice Wednesday because of a right hand injury, and Coach Barry Trotz said he is considered “day-to-day.” Backstrom didn’t play in the Capitals’ series-clinching Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, but Trotz said Backstrom will at least travel to Tampa Bay for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final Friday.
“He’s working out and getting the therapy he needs,” Trotz said.
Trotz wouldn’t say whether Backstrom will practice Thursday, but the top center had hoped to play Monday night, perhaps an encouraging sign for his availability going forward. Backstrom appeared to get injured while blocking a shot with his hand in the first period of Game 5 against Pittsburgh, and he didn’t take faceoffs for the rest of the game. He had 21 goals and 50 assists in the regular season, and he has three goals and 10 assists through 11 playoff games. Backstrom centers the Capitals’ second line with T.J. Oshie, and he also plays on Washington’s top power play and kills penalties. With Backstrom out, center Lars Eller saw an uptick in minutes and responsibility.
Including Backstrom, the Capitals were without three of their top-six forwards in their 2-1 overtime Game 6 win against the Penguins, and they’ll have at least right wing Tom Wilson back after he served his three-game suspension. Left wing Andre Burakovsky has been out with an undisclosed “upper-body” injury since he got hurt in Game 2 of Washington’s first-round series against Columbus. Burakovsky had surgery a few weeks ago, and he practiced with the team in a non-contact jersey for a first time Wednesday. Trotz said Burakovsky will travel with the team for Game 1 against Tampa Bay, though it seems unlikely he’d play as soon as Friday. Burakovsky was playing on the second line before he got hurt.
Trotz said Burakovsky has been upgraded from “week-to-week” to “day-to-day.”
Here’s what the Capitals’ lines in practice looked like with Backstrom out:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana-Lars Eller-T.J. Oshie
Chandler Stephenson-Travis Boyd-Brett Connolly
Devante Smith-Pelly-Jay Beagle-Alex Chiasson
Michal Kempny-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik-Christian Djoos
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