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Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom undergoes hip surgery, faces ‘lengthy recovery’

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom underwent hip resurfacing surgery. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom underwent left hip resurfacing surgery Friday, a procedure that will require a “lengthy recovery process,” the team announced.

The Capitals provided no timetable for Backstrom’s expected return. The surgery was performed at the ANCA Clinic in Belgium, the team said, and Backstrom was expected to start rehabilitation immediately.

Backstrom, 34, dealt with a nagging hip injury throughout the 2021-22 season. The veteran center underwent arthroscopic hip surgery, a minimally invasive procedure, in 2015, but the issue flared up at the end of the 2020-21 season. He opted not to have surgery last summer and instead spent the offseason rehabbing, then missed the first two months of this season.

“The best thing I want to do is play hockey, and that’s my life,” Backstrom said in May. “Obviously I want to be back. I want to be back to normal, not worrying about this.”

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His decision to finally have surgery was not surprising. Backstrom said in mid-May that his hip would “never be 100 percent” again and that surgery was likely. Hip resurfacing requires doctors to remove damaged bone and shave and reshape what is left before placing a metal cap on top to cover the bone.

When asked in May whether Backstrom’s hip injury could be career-ending, Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan avoided the question, instead saying Backstrom was going to “explore all options.”

Backstrom had six goals and 25 assists in 47 games during the 2021-22 season. He has three years left on the five-year, $46 million contract he signed in January 2020.

Other NHL players who have undergone the procedure include Ryan Kesler, who played 15 seasons, had hip resurfacing surgery — first on his right hip in May 2019, then on his left hip in February 2020 — and has not played in the NHL since March 2019.

Former Florida Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski had hip resurfacing surgery in April 2013 and played in 37 games during the 2013-14 season before the Panthers bought out his contract. He retired in 2015.

Outside of hockey, tennis star Andy Murray is one of the most prominent athletes to undergo hip resurfacing.

Backstrom wasn’t the only Capitals player to have surgery in the offseason. The Capitals also announced Saturday that defenseman Alex Alexeyev underwent a surgical labral repair on his left shoulder. Alexeyev is expected to miss four to five months. Alexeyev made his NHL debut with the Capitals last season but mainly played in the American Hockey League.

In late May, Capitals winger Tom Wilson had surgery to repair an ACL tear in his left knee. Wilson’s recovery time is six to eight months. The earliest he would return is late November. Wilson was injured in Game 1 of Washington’s first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against Florida.