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At the Rink blog

Caps' Backstrom feels he's improving, but return date unknown

Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 1:49 PM

By Ben Raby - NHL.com Correspondent / At the Rink blog

ARLINGTON, Va. – Nicklas Backstrom spoke to local reporters Saturday for the first time since Jan.6, and while the Washington Capitals’ injured center says his condition is improving, there remains no timetable for his return.

Backstrom has been sidelined since Jan.3, when he took an elbow to the head from then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque. The 24-year-old will miss his 17th straight game Sunday when the Capitals visit the New York Rangers.

“It’s a long process but I’m getting better,” Backstrom said. “Obviously you want to be out there and playing with the team, but this is the situation now and you’ve got to deal with it.”

Backstrom told a Swedish newspaper last week that he was unsure when he might play again and that he hopes to be ready by the playoffs.

He said Saturday that he is working closely with head athletic trainer Greg Smith and trying to maintain his conditioning by riding a stationary bike. Skating he says, remains a challenge.

“Lately I’ve been doing the bike so I think I’m improving” he said. “The thing is, it takes time – but I’m on a good program now so hopefully I’ll get better soon.”

Backstrom has skated for just five minutes in the past 37 days – an attempt on Jan.23.

“I’m not 100-percent to skate now so we’ll see when it [will be] time to hit the ice [again],” he said. “Right now I’m taking it day-by-day.”

Despite missing the past 16 games, Backstrom is second on the Capitals with 42 points (13 goals; 29 assists), and he is second among Washington forwards averaging 19:10 TOI per game.

The Capitals are 7-6-3 since Backstrom’s injury and his absence has been particularly noteworthy on the Caps’ power play, which went 1-for-25 from Jan. 13-Feb.7.

One encouraging sign for the Capitals is Backstrom’s desire to be around his teammates.

After spending much of January recovering on his own, the past week saw Backstrom host a Super Bowl party for his teammates, attend home games at Verizon Center, and participate in the team’s annual Casino night/gala.  He is also travelling with the Caps for this weekend’s trip to New York.

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery