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Caps' Backstrom skates for third straight day

Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 12:04 PM / News

By Ben Raby - NHL.com Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee said last month that once Nicklas Backstrom returns to the lineup, the eighth-place Capitals could beat any team in the Eastern Conference. It may not be too long before McPhee and the Caps find out.

Backstrom skated Thursday at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, marking the third straight day the injured forward has been on the ice.

The Capitals' No. 1 center has been sidelined with a concussion since taking an elbow to the head from then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque on Jan. 3, but the 24-year-old Swede is progressing.
Nicklas Backstrom
Center - WSH
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 29 | PTS: 42
SOG: 90 | +/-: -2
"It felt good," Backstrom said. "I'm improving I think from when I first got the hit, but it takes time; but it's a good sign that I'm back on the ice and I can skate a little bit."

Backstrom skated in full pads Thursday for about 30 minutes and was put through skating and shooting drills by Capitals strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish.

This marked the first time Backstrom has skated three straight days since the Jan. 3 injury, and he said afterward this is "absolutely" the best he has felt since the hit. Backstrom also said he has no lingering symptoms.

"It's just the last couple of weeks I've been feeling good and really felt that this is going forward," he said. "As you guys know, it takes time. That's what guys keep telling me all the time."

Backstrom recently spent time with his family in Sweden in an effort to get away from a hockey environment. It was similar to Sidney Crosby's returning to Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, late last season while he recovered from his own concussion.

"I was changing the atmosphere a little bit," Backstrom said. "I was getting a little frustrated here when I saw the guys on the ice, and obviously I wanted to play. I think it was a good thing for me to be back there and think about other stuff other than hockey. When I got back, I felt better, and I can skate now so that's good."

The Capitals have won 15 of 32 games without Backstrom in the lineup and he remains fourth on the team in scoring with 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists) in 38 games.

"It's just the last couple of weeks I've been feeling good and really felt that this is going forward. As you guys know, it takes time. That's what guys keep telling me all the time." -- Capitals' forward Nicklas Backstrom
Despite the improvement in his condition, there is no timetable for Backstrom's return -- he has not been cleared for contact and has yet to practice with his teammates.

"It's so hard," Backstrom said of having to watch his team fight for a playoff spot. "I've been out for two months. You want to be out there so bad. Especially when you see the guys right now, you just want to practice with them."

The four-time defending Southeast Division champion Capitals are one point behind the Florida Panthers for the division lead. The Caps are also three points clear of the ninth place Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference.

"It's frustrating but at the same time, you've got to be careful. Your head is very important for the rest of your life," Backstrom said. "Right now I can tell that I feel good, and hopefully I won't be in the same situation."

I was in there icing my face as she was trying to push a baby out.

— Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf on going to the hospital with a facial laceration while his wife was in labor following Game 1 on Wednesday