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Caps' Backstrom takes another step toward return

by Dan Rosen
WASHINGTON -- Nicklas Backstrom moved one step closer to returning to the Capitals lineup by passing another concussion baseline test "with flying colors," according to a relieved Washington GM George McPhee.

"We'll see where it goes from here, but it looks like the worst is behind for Nick," McPhee said.

Backstrom hasn't played since taking Rene Bourque's flagrant elbow to the head on Jan. 3 in Calgary. Tuesday's game against Buffalo was the 39th in a row that Backstrom has missed. He has been skating for the past two weeks and was cleared for contact in practice this past Saturday.

Nicklas Backstrom
Center - WSH
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 29 | PTS: 42
SOG: 90 | +/-: -2
McPhee still wouldn't offer a timetable on when Backstrom will be back in the lineup. He said the team is leaving the decision in Backstrom's hands, but the next step in his recovery is "just making sure he's in good shape and he's comfortable."

McPhee said the Capitals will not pressure Backstrom into playing before the regular season ends. Washington has five games remaining after Tuesday.

"We're not going to put this kid at risk by telling him when to play, etc.," McPhee said. "He's a grown-up and he knows how he feels, and he'll make the decision as to whether he plays or not."

Backstrom has returned home to Sweden twice since suffering his concussion. He went back for the second time earlier this month, and the visit seemed to do the trick because Backstrom has not experienced any symptoms since he got back on the ice 15 days ago.

"You never know what is going to turn for a player," McPhee said. "Maybe that should be part of the protocol now, if a guy is starting to stall in his progress, send him home home."

McPhee admitted he was initially worried that Backstrom wouldn't be ready to go even by next season.

"You don't know when these things happen whether it's going to be a day, a month, a year, two years. You just don't know," McPhee said. "We're just really relieved today that he feels great and he's out practicing. He's a fabulous player that we need and this League needs. These are the guys you want to watch; they're real difference makers."

McPhee also announced the signing of college free agent defenseman Cameron Schilling to a two-year entry-level contract. The 6-2, 197-pound blueliner recently completed a four-year run with Miami of Ohio. He had 14 points as a senior and 54 points over 155 collegiate games.

Schilling is a former teammate of Washington defenseman John Carlson. The two played together with Indiana of the USHL.

Schilling's contract starts next season, but he will report to AHL Hershey on Wednesday to play on a tryout agreement for the remainder of this season.

"He feels like a good solid pro, a real mature kid, mature player," McPhee said. "He's probably a shutdown 'D', but he's got good wheels. He will report to Hershey tomorrow and get working."

Finally, McPhee announced that 20-year-old goaltending prospect Philipp Grubauer, Washington's fourth-round pick in 2010, had surgery to repair a torn tendon in his wrist. The Caps hope Grubauer, who was the starter for their ECHL affiliate in South Carolina, is ready to go in time for development camp.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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