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Capitals' Backstrom practices but won't start season

by Katie Brown

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom, who participated in practice Wednesday for the first time since having arthroscopic hip surgery on May 27, is not expected to play at least the first four games of the season.

“He won’t start the season," coach Barry Trotz told The Washington Post on Thursday. "I know that for sure. I wouldn't think that he'd play through those first four games."

Backstrom is not ready to take contact at practice, and there is no indication when or if he will be cleared before the season begins.

The Capitals open the season at Verizon Center against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 10.

"I'm just trying to take it day by day," Backstrom said Wednesday. "No timetable. I just want to feel healthy."

Trotz said the Capitals would not put Backstrom at risk by rushing his recovery.

"[Backstrom] has been skating really well with controlled conditions," Trotz said Tuesday. "I think once you get into practice, you've got to avoid people a little bit, so we'll see how he reacts to that."

Backstrom had surgery for an injury he said had been bothering him since November 2014; recovery was estimated at five months.

He started skating less than two months after surgery in July but said at the start of training camp he was making sure he didn't experience any pain the day after working out.

Backstrom skates with injured defenseman Brooks Orpik before training camp sessions begin each day, and said last month he was working on getting the strength in his legs back to normal.

Backstrom, 27, led the NHL with 60 assists and was sixth with 78 points last season as captain Alex Ovechkin's regular center. The Capitals were planning for his potential unavailability for the start of the season by promoting center Evgeny Kuznetsov to the top line and Andre Burakovsky to the second line.

Backstrom said he is taking things slow and listening to his body.

"We'll see and take it day by day," Backstrom said. "You never know, it's just about how you feel."

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