SAN JOSE – The Washington Capitals will be without Nicklas Backstrom, their leading scorer, when they face San Jose on Saturday night at HP Pavilion, coach Dale Hunter said after his team’s morning skate.
Backstrom was elbowed in the head Tuesday by Calgary’s Rene Bourque. He practiced with the team on Friday in San Jose but was not on the ice Saturday.
Hunter said Backstrom has not suffered a setback.
“You just got to be careful. He feels good, but you still got to be careful with it,” Hunter said.
Backstrom leads the Capitals with 42 points – 13 goals and 29 assists. He’s tied for ninth in the NHL in points. As tough as it is for the Capitals to play without Backstrom, wing Mike Knuble said giving him more time to recover is the right move.
“We’ve all seen what happens when you put a guy in too early or if he’s not feeling right,” Knuble said. “It’s just potential for a lot more injury and potential for turning a mole hill into a mountain. Smart. Good idea. It’s January. It’s not like it’s a do-or-die game.”
Based on the Capitals’ line rushes Saturday morning, wing Alexander Semin will join Knuble on the second line with Marcus Johansson sliding over to center. Semin was absent Tuesday with an upper-body injury but is ready to return.
Backstrom has points in five straight games – a goal and seven assists. He has 18 power-play points, tied for third most in the NHL.
“It’s never good when you play without one of the best players on your team, but, again, it is what it is,” forward Alex Ovechkin said. “It’s a great game for different guys to step up and play our way without Nick.”
This is how the lineups could look Saturday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Washington Capitals at HP Pavilion:
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe – Logan Couture – Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn – Michal Handzus – Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester – Andrew Desjardins – Tommy Wingels
Dan Boyle – Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Jason Demers – Brent Burns
Douglas Murray – Justin Braun
Alex Ovechkin – Brooks Laich – Troy Brouwer
Alexander Semin - Marcus Johansson – Mike Knuble
Jason Chimera – Jeff Halpern – Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks – Mathieu Perreault - Jay Beagle
Karl Azner – John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik – Dennis Wideman
John Erskine – Mike Green