The Washington Capitals got the news that they have been waiting for since the first week of January: Nicklas Backstrom will be back in the lineup after missing nearly three months with a concussion.
Backstrom took part in line rushes this morning, on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson.
While it remains to be seen how much ice time the Swede center will see, it will be determined on how he feels as the contest goes on. Although, Dale Hunter is not concerned about Backstrom being able to handle a significant role in such a big game.
Hunter made it clear that Backstrom is full of talent, and that is why he is starting out fresh on the top line. A player with his skill needs to be up there to help the top players put the puck in the net.
One side note: Dale Hunter, since taking over the Capitals on November 28, has only coached one game with Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Mike Green in the lineup. That game was the same game Backstrom was knocked out with a concussion by Rene Bourque. The Capitals ended up winning that game 3-1 against the Calgary Flames.
As the Capitals continue their push for the playoffs in the final four games of the season, Backstrom’s return not only brings an emotional lift, it brings a lift in point production. It was without question that he was the most consistent player on the Capitals roster with 42 points in 38 games. That mark stood as best on the team for over a month after he was knocked out.
Will Backstrom’s return be as memorable as Sidney Crosby’s? Probably not. But his return will definitely aid the Capitals as they make that last push to stay in the top eight in the Eastern Conference.