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Conference Final

Backstrom skates, day to day for Capitals heading into conference final

Center takes ice for first time since second-round injury, could return for Game 1 against Lightning

by Brian McNally / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Nicklas Backstrom skated on his own for the first time Thursday since the Washington Capitals center injured his right hand blocking a shot in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

Backstrom remains day to day for the Capitals heading into Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; TVAS), coach Barry Trotz said.

Trotz did not say whether Backstrom, who skated and worked on his stickhandling before an optional practice, would play in Game 1. 

"We are just trying to make sure," Trotz said. "[Backstrom is] still getting some maintenance work and we're trying to keep him conditioned. We're doing that off-ice stuff and on the ice as well. I don't know if it makes it one way or the other that he's [in the lineup]. He's just got to do that. You can't just ride the bike and not skate."


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Backstrom has 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Capitals after having 71 points (21 goals, 50 assists) in 81 regular-season games. He missed the 2-1 overtime win against Pittsburgh in Game 6 on Monday that clinched the series for Washington, which advanced to the conference final for the first time since 1998.

Lars Eller was Washington's second-line center in Game 6 against the Penguins. Rookie Travis Boyd centered the third line.  

Forward Andre Burakovsky (upper body) also remains day to day. He skated in a regular jersey Thursday for the first time since he was injured in Game 2 of the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 15. 

Burakovsky had surgery as the result of a check by Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner. Trotz did not say if Burakovsky would be ready for Game 1 against Tampa Bay.  

Burakovsky had no points in two playoff games after having 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 56 regular-season games. He wore a non-contact blue jersey during a full contact practice Wednesday. 

He had six points (three goals, three assists) in 13 playoff games last season.

"I expect when Andre is ready that he could give us a boost of enthusiasm," Trotz said. "He's a good player and he's been generally a pretty good player in the playoffs. I'm hoping past experience and playoff excitement will push him forward when he gets the call."


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