The Washington Capitals open their third-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, but they might have to play the first contest of the Eastern Conference Finals without one of their best players.
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom did not take part in the Capitals’ morning skate on Friday. After the skate, head coach Barry Trotz refused to admit that his star forward would miss the contest, but did however say that Backstrom would be a game time decision for tonight.
“He’s still getting some maintenance work, and we’re trying to keep him conditioned,” Trotz said to the Washington Post. “We’re doing that off-ice stuff and on the ice as well.”
Teammate Lars Eller took Backstrom’s place on the second line and the first unit power-play during practice while Chandler Stephenson is expected to center the team’s third line. Have a look at what the lines looked like during the morning skate. The Caps can at least count on forward Tom Wilson to return from his three-game suspension for his questionable hit on Pittsburgh Penguins' Zach Aston-Resse. Andre Burakovsky is also expected back in the lineup after missing the past 10 games with an upper-body injury.
Backstrom is said to have suffered a right-hand injury that he suffered while blocking a shot during Game 5 against the Penguins in the second round. While Burakovsky is also said to be a game-time decision, he looks to have better chances than Backstrom to be on the ice tonight in Tampa Bay.
“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, so I’m hoping past experience and playoff excitement will push him forward when he gets the call.”
Trotz said Wednesday Backstrom’s injury was considered “day-to-day” and he would travel with the team to Tampa.
“He’s working out and getting the therapy he needs,” Trotz said.
Other players were absent from the skate: Nathan Walker, who made his NHL playoff debut during Game 6 against the Penguins, and Travis Boyd. Walker had a primary assist on Alex Chiasson’s second period goal, while Boyd previously centered the third line.
Who is pump for the first game of the Eastern Conference finals tonight?