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Conference Final

Backstrom to travel with Capitals for Game 1 against Lightning

Center remains day to day with upper-body injury

by Brian McNally / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Nicklas Backstrom will travel with the Washington Capitals for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS) but it is unknown if he will play.

Coach Barry Trotz did not say whether Backstrom would practice Thursday. The 30-year-old center is day to day with an upper-body injury that prevented him from playing in a 2-1 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the second round Monday. That win put the Capitals in the conference final for the first time since 1998.

Trotz said if the Capitals have to play Game 1 without Backstrom, they will use the same approach that helped them defeat the Penguins.

"Everybody playing the right way. I thought we checked really well. We played a game that we needed to play," Trotz said Wednesday.  "We knew that we had to be very compact in our game, precise, and we needed four lines and that's what we did.

"We knew we couldn't do it with one line or two lines, we needed all four. We went down that path. I think there was a big buy-in. There was no drama. In [Backstrom's] case if he was in or not, we were ready to go."

Backstrom was injured in Game 5 against the Penguins when he appeared to block a shot with his right hand during a Pittsburgh power play midway through the first period. His 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs are third on the Capitals behind Alex Ovechkin (15 points) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (14). He had five points (one goal, four assists) in the second round.

Lars Eller centered the second line and played on the top power-play unit in place of Backstrom in Game 6. He was in that role during practice Wednesday, Washington's first since defeating Pittsburgh. Eller skated with Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie. Backstrom did not participate.

"It's the first time we've been without one of our centers in a big game," Eller said. "A lot of people probably thought the odds weren't in favor of us winning when [Backstrom] was out. There's a lot of pride in this group and a lot of guys needed to step in and raise their level. A lot of guys did."

Forward Andre Burakovsky (upper body) is day to day and will travel to Tampa. He was week to week and hasn't played since he was injured by a hit from Columbus Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner during Game 2 of the first round April 15.

Burakovsky is recovering from surgery and practiced Wednesday wearing a non-contact jersey. It was his first practice since getting injured. He skated on his own Friday after practice and Saturday after the morning skate.


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