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Capitals' Backstrom content not to command spotlight

by Adam Vingan

ARLINGTON, Va. -- It may come as a surprise to discover that 12 players in the NHL have scored more points than Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom's 439 since he entered the League in 2007-08, or that his 24 three-assist games are the most over that span.

That is perfectly fine with Backstrom. In fact, he prefers it that way.

"I'm going to be honest with you, I'm not going to look for attention," Backstrom told "That's not who I am. … I don't need it. I'm happy with the way it is."

Incredibly reserved with a voice barely above a whisper, Backstrom does not command the attention of his more magnetic contemporaries, teammate Alex Ovechkin chief among them.

As linemates, the juxtaposition is more stark.

Ovechkin punctuates his goals -- countless of which have been assisted by Backstrom -- with glass-rattling exuberance, while a modest smile will creep across Backstrom’s face, often accentuated with a muted fist pump.

It is an understated yet effective approach that has made Backstrom one of the most quietly consistent players in the League.

"I think he gets overshadowed because of the personality of Alex," forward Brooks Laich told "Alex is a very outgoing guy, energetic, flashier type guy and Nick is more reserved, so more of the spotlight goes to Alex.

"But the second thing is, and I've said it since Nick's been here, he's probably the quietest superstar in the League. He has all-world, all-class abilities, superstar abilities, but maybe he's a little more reserved and doesn't need or crave that attention. He's a confident guy and just goes about his business. That's enough for him."

In the opening moments of Washington's 4-1 victory against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, Ovechkin roared down the right-wing side for a slap shot he blew by Jaroslav Halak.

Yet perhaps lost amid the sheer force of the goal was that it would not have been possible without the ever-so-slight change of direction provided by Backstrom's deft touch pass that sprung Ovechkin free in the neutral zone.

When Backstrom returned to the bench, coach Adam Oates caught his eye and discreetly nodded his approval.

"That was a special pass," Oates said Tuesday. "Ovi scored, but I saw it.

"[Backstrom] and I have talked. I can't speak for him when it comes to that, but he is the silent guy, no question, but I'm sure he appreciates the fact that we do appreciate that. He has to be reminded by myself and the staff every once in a while."

Backstrom is perfectly content and comfortable ceding the spotlight, professing to  Wednesday he "[likes] it back there," but his vital contributions to the Capitals go far from unnoticed.

"You've got Ovi and you've got [Sidney Crosby], you've got those guys who are superstars in the newspapers, on the TVs, but after that, you've got superstars like Nicklas and Pavel Datsyuk," left wing Martin Erat told "I would say [they're] the best [centermen] in the League and nobody knows about them. It's unbelievable how good he is and nobody gives him that respect."

That is, except for his teammates.

"Nicky does a lot," goaltender Braden Holtby said. "As a teammate of his, you can't say enough about what he does for our team as a leader and obviously as a player. He's our steadying guy. He's the guy that we look to when we have troubles or whatnot. He calms us down."

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