NEWARK, N.J. -- Washington Capitals
coach Bruce Boudreau
said top-line center Nicklas Backstrom
would be a game-time decision Friday when his club battles the New Jersey Devils
here at Prudential Center.
It appears as though Backstrom, who has been sidelined the past five games with a fractured thumb, has already made the decision for his head coach.
"It feels good and I'm ready to go," Backstrom told the media following his team's morning skate. "It's been so long -- so I'm excited to get back out there. It's been a couple of games and obviously you don't want to sit out, but it was a new thing for me, so it'll be fun to get back in there and play the game."
He was wearing a support on his left thumb while he sat at his locker stall following practice. The Capitals enter the game two points behind Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia after having their season-high nine-game winning streak snapped in Detroit on Wednesday. The Devils, meanwhile, are fighting for their playoff lives. The club remains six points out of the final playoff spot in the East.
The return of Backstrom would certainly add to Washington's offensive arsenal down the stretch.
"This is just a safety thing I put on," Backstrom said of the bandage on his thumb. "I can stickhandle good and everything. I wouldn't play if I didn't feel 100 percent."
Despite missing time, Backstrom still ranks second on the team with 38 assists and 55 points and is tied for third with 17 goals. He's also tied for first on the team with a plus-19 rating. Sitting out and watching from the luxury suite was something entirely new for the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Swede, who never missed a game in his previous three seasons.
In fact, his 313 consecutive-games streak was snapped March 9 against Edmonton -- it was the third-longest streak in franchise history.
"When you're hurt, you're hurt," Backstrom said. "It's not a fun thing but the team was winning. It was good and I was happy for us. It was good to watch a game, see how we play and how the situation is from upstairs. Hopefully, I learned a little bit."