Jan 2: Backstrom has tested out of the protocol and re-joined his teammates, according to El-Bashir. The veteran forward is back on the ice in a top-six jersey.
Dec 28: It had been a promising scene at Washington Capitals practice recently, with Nicklas Backstrom taking part and appearing to be close to a return. Unfortunately, that recovery will have to be put on pause for the moment, as the veteran center has been put in the COVID protocol, according to Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic.
With Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie, and Carl Hagelin all taking part in the optional practice today, the Capitals are well on their way to getting the band back together. Backstrom’s absence will hopefully be rather short, and he will be able to get back on the ice in a few days.
The 35-year-old hasn’t played this season as he recovers from hip surgery in June. After the procedure, he explained to reporters that he was pain-free for the first time in years but didn’t know when or if he would be able to play again. The mystery appears to be solved, and a return for Backstrom is on the horizon.
After hitting the 1,000-point mark last season, there are a few Hall of Fame players within striking distance of the Capitals legend, and a place in the NHL’s top 75 is even possible. He would need 35 points to pass Henri Richard’s 1,046 for that honor, though Eric Staal (currently at 1,042) might do it first. It has been an incredible career for the fourth overall pick from 2006, and as Alex Ovechkin continues his chase of the all-time goals record, getting his long-time setup man would only help.
Because Backstrom is already on long-term injured reserve, his status in the protocol will not change anything for the Capitals. The team will need to clear a good amount of cap space to activate him though, meaning this will likely give them a little extra time to figure things out.