Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom and left wing Andre Burakovsky both took steps in their recovery from “upper-body” injuries on Thursday morning, but it’s unclear if either will be in the lineup for Friday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Coach Barry Trotz said both are “day-to-day” without revealing much more about their status. Both players are traveling with the team to Tampa on Thursday.
Backstrom, who missed Washington’s series-clinching Game 6 win against Pittsburgh because of a right hand injury, skated on his own for the first time since, lightly stickhandling. 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 right wing T.J. Oshie, and he also plays on Washington’s top power play and kills penalties. With Backstrom out, center Lars Eller moved up in the lineup.
“He’s still getting some maintenance work, and we’re trying to keep him conditioned,” Trotz said. “We’re doing that off-ice stuff and on the ice as well.”
Burakovsky hasn’t played since Game 2 of the Capitals’ first-round series against the Blue Jackets, when he got hurt on a hit in the corner from Columbus forward Boone Jenner. He scored three goals and three assists in his last eight games of the regular season while playing beside Backstrom and Oshie. He practiced with a non-contact jersey Wednesday, and he was back in a normal jersey Thursday, though it was an optional practice, so contact was minimal anyway.
“I expect when Andre is ready that he could give us a boost of enthusiasm,” Trotz said. “He’s a good player, and he’s been generally a pretty good player in the playoffs, so I’m hoping past experience and playoff excitement will push him forward when he gets the call.”
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