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Backstrom hopes he, Ovechkin finish NHL careers together with Capitals

Center negotiating new contract, echoes owner's recent comments

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Nicklas Backstrom said he hopes he and Alex Ovechkin will be teammates with the Washington Capitals long after they play their 900th game together Friday.

With the forwards expected to reach the milestone when the Capitals play at the New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, MSG+, NBCSWA, NHL.TV), Backstrom reiterated Thursday his desire to stay with the only NHL team he has played for and said he wants he and Ovechkin to finish their League careers together with Washington.

"Exactly. That's what I want to do," the 32-year-old center told NHL.com. "This is home for me. Washington's been great for me, and I love playing here. It's my family. So, every time you have that feeling, you don't want to go anywhere."

Backstrom, who is in the final season of a 10-year contract, has been negotiating a new contract with the Capitals without an agent and, though reluctant to talk about specifics, said he is optimistic they'll agree on a deal that will keep him with Washington for the remainder of his career. 

"The next thing you'll hear about that it will be done maybe," Backstrom said. "But nothing, yet."

Ovechkin's contract is up after next season, but owner Ted Leonsis said at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony last week that he expects both forwards "to play here forever, then they retire and then they're associated with us very, very closely."

The Capitals cannot sign Ovechkin to an extension until July 1, but the 34-year-old left wing said he is happy Leonsis said he wants he and Backstrom to finish playing together with the Capitals. 

"Obviously, it's a very important thing to hear when your owner said that about you and if they want to sign us or not," said Ovechkin, who signed a 13-year contract with Washington on Jan. 10, 2008. "But we'll see what happens."

Backstrom said he hopes he and Ovechkin will re-sign and finish together the journey they began when Ovechkin, the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, stepped to the podium at the 2006 NHL Draft in Vancouver to announce the Capitals were taking Backstrom at No. 4. 

"Both of us, we've been here for such a long time and we've been part of this, part of what they started building a couple years ago," Backstrom said. "It's fun being a part of it, and this is how you want to finish."

Video: WSH@CGY: Ovechkin provides quick response for Caps

On Friday, they are set to become the 21st set of NHL teammates to play at least 900 regular-season games together and the sixth among active players, according to NHL Stats. Alex Delvecchio and Gordie Howe hold the NHL record with 1,353 games as teammates with the Detroit Red Wings from 1951-71. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook lead active players with 1,069 games as teammates with the Chicago Blackhawks since 2005.

Ovechkin, who has 33 points (21 goals, 12 assists) in 35 games this season, and Backstrom, who has 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 27 games, have played on the same line for much of their 13 seasons as teammates. Backstrom has assisted 254 of Ovechkin's 581 goals during that span, including six of his 21 this season. Ovechkin has assisted on 98 of Backstrom's 237 goals. 

"I think it's nice to be with that guy on the same team for so many years," Ovechkin said. "You can ask anybody in this locker room or previous guys who played [for the Capitals]. First of all, he's a tremendous person and an unbelievable centerman. To be around him and see how he's growing up, how he's matured is great."

Ovechkin is 12th in NHL history with 679 goals, five behind Teemu Selanne for 11th. With 896 points (237 goals, 659 assists) in 922 regular-season games, Backstrom is four points from joining Ovechkin (1,244 points in 1,119 games) as the only players to have at least 900 points with Washington.

"When you're talking about two star players, it doesn't always work out perfect, and that is the absolute opposite with these two," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. "These two get along great in all areas: on the ice, off the ice, challenge each other, play on the same line. How many times Nick has set up Ovi for goals is a crazy amount of assists."

Even with all the goals and assists they've combined for, the unquestioned top achievement during Ovechkin and Backstrom's time as teammates was helping Washington win the Stanley Cup in 2018. They went through some tough times before that, failing to advance to past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in their first nine postseason trips before finally breaking through and winning the Capitals' first championship.

"The only thing we do is do something we love," Backstrom said. "We play hockey together. We're good friends and we've been playing with [each] other for a long time, but the most important thing is we got a championship together. So we've been through a lot."

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