Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom skated for the first time this week at Kettler Iceplex and now appears on track to start training camp with the team on Sunday.
Backstrom, 25, sustained a neck injury during a Dec. 26 game playing in the KHL for Moscow Dynamo. He had yet to skate since then as players trickled into town for informal workouts and on Wednesday traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich. to see University of Michigan Hospital concussion specialist Dr. Jeff Kutcher. Backstrom was cleared to return to the ice and said he did not have a concussion or suffer any migraine headaches. His main symptom was a stiff neck after landing awkwardly into the boards, but insists he is “100 percent” right now.
“I think everyone in the league is gonna be more serious about those things because it’s your head,” Backstrom said. “You only have one head. You can’t really do anything about it. You got to make sure it’s 100 percent so you can perform out there.”
Backstrom said it will take him a few days to get back in game shape. He did play 19 games in Russia for Dynamo and only missed 15 days. Last year, of course, Backstrom missed 40 games after suffering a concussion in a Jan. 3 game against the Calgary Flames. He did not return until late March, played in the final four regular-season games and in 13 Stanley Cup playoff games. Backstrom was suspended for one of the postseason games against the Boston Bruins.
“Hopefully that’s something that I only do once in my career,” Backstrom said of his concussion. “I’m only looking forward and being positive about everything now.”
Backstrom was asked if he’d targeted a return in time for the first game – expected on Jan. 19.
“If I make the lineup,” Backstrom cracked.
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