COLOGNE -- Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is honored to play for Sweden in the 2017 IIHF World Championship, but would rather still be competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Washington lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on May 10, the second straight season the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals failed to make the conference final.
"We thought this was the year," Backstrom said. "It's obviously disappointing, but at the same time, when you decide to come over here it makes you think about other stuff when you keep playing hockey. It takes your mind off it. It's actually a good feeling to be here and not think about it."
Backstrom, who is making his fifth appearance in the world championship, assisted on two goals in Sweden's 4-1 semifinal win against Finland at Laxness Arena on Saturday.
"But honestly, when you're healthy and your body feels good, that's when you decide to go," he said. "Obviously, they wanted me this year, so I'm honored to come here and play for my country. It's a great feeling. It helps, too, when you make it to the final."
Backstrom has played a key role in Sweden advancing to the gold medal game against Canada on Sunday (2:45 p.m. ET; NHLN). He has six points (two goals, four assists) since being added to the roster on May 12, two days after the Capitals were eliminated, and centers a line with New York Rangers forward Oscar Lindberg and Toronto Maple Leafs rookie forward William Nylander. Nylander scored his seventh goal of the tournament in the win against Finland, with Backstrom assisting on the play.
"It's one of those rentals, a top rental coming in," Sweden defenseman Anton Stralman of the Tampa Bay Lightning said, about Backstrom's late arrival. "I mean, for sure [he's] one of the best playmakers in the NHL, and to have him out there with Nylander, I wouldn't want to defend that. They're so smart. They can make those little sauce plays, and it's tough to get them to stop."
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman applauded Backstrom's decision to play at the world championship.
"It says a lot about the leadership he has," Hedman said. "He just wants to win."
Backstrom, 29, hopes to help Sweden win a gold medal, something they last did in 2013. Backstrom won gold in 2006, when he was 18.
"It feels like it's been forever," he said. "It's time again."