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At the Rink: Hurricanes at Capitals

by Katie Brown

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom will make his season debut against the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; FS-SE, CSN-DC).

"It's nice to be back," Backstrom said. "It's tough to watch games from the side. It's fun to be in."

Backstrom had arthroscopic hip surgery on May 27 and has missed three games this season. He was expected to miss at least 4-5 games at the start of the season and Backstrom said being able to return a little sooner than anticipated is a nice surprise.

Last season, Backstrom played in all 82 games and led the team with 60 assists.

"I've been feeling good, no setbacks," Backstrom said. "I feel like I've been doing my best to get back as fast as possible with no rush. It's been working out well."

Coach Barry Trotz shuffled the forward lines at the morning skate in anticipation of Backstrom's return. He kept the top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie together and put Backstrom on the second line with Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams.

"Marcus is skating really well and Marcus has played with [Backstrom] before many times," Trotz said. "And with Williams I thought it's just another veteran guy that I think [they] can complement each other, especially the way [Backstrom] thinks and moves the puck."

Andre Burakovsky, who centered the second line for three games, was shuffled down to the fourth line, where he'll play at right wing with Brooks Laich and Chandler Stephenson.

That gives Trotz the flexibility to move Burakovsky up to second-line center during the game if he feels like Backstrom needs a break.

"[Burakovsky's] going to start there but that doesn't mean he's going to end there," Trotz said. "He's a good player. He won't be on the fourth line too long. He'll be sort of a swing guy. He can move to the other lines or he can move in the middle."

Backstrom's return means more than just the extra flexibility in the lineup. Trotz said it brings a sense of security to players and coaches knowing the lineup looks the way it should.

"It puts everyone in order," Trotz said. "He's one of those quiet impact players. Ovi's one of the most loud players in the League in terms of his big shot and the big hits and all that. Nick is that quiet superstar that you appreciate. The team appreciates that too."

The Hurricanes didn't skate Saturday after winning their first game of the season, 5-3 at the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. They'll use the same lineup, including Cam Ward in goal.

"He was good," coach Bill Peters told the Hurricanes website. "I don't want to mess with a winning lineup. I need somebody to get on a roll, and this is an opportunity for [Ward] to get on a roll back-to-back nights coming off of a win. I thought he played well and managed the game properly. This is a chance for him to come back and do it again here today."

Here are the projected lineups:


Brock McGinn - Eric Staal - Kris Versteeg

Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Andrej Nestrasil

Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Elias Lindholm

Brad Malone- Jay McClement - Chris Terry

Ron Hainsey - Justin Faulk

John-Michael Liles - Michal Jordan

Noah Hanifin - Ryan Murphy

Cam Ward

Eddie Lack

Injured: James Wisniewski (torn ACL), Joakim Nordstrom (lower-body), Riley Nash (shoulder)

Scratched: Brett Pesce


Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich - Chandler Stephenson - Andre Burakovsky

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner

Dmitry Orlov -Taylor Chorney

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Injured: Chris Brown (hand)

Scratched: Michael Latta, Nate Schmidt, Stanislav Galiev

Status update: Backstrom has skated on a line with Ovechkin most of his career, and Trotz didn't rule out swapping Kuznetsov and Backstrom based on matchups.

Who's hot: Ovechkin has 73 points in 61 games against Carolina and Backstrom has 46 points in 41 games against the Hurricanes. … Faulk has four points in four games and leads the Hurricanes in scoring.

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