Washington Capitals star forward Nicklas Backstrom did not play in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday because he is still dealing with a hand injury. It marked the fourth straight game he has missed, but it could be all about to change.
Well, at least one thing is.
According to the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan, the star forward could return tonight for the pivotal Game 4 of the series. However, he is not expected to be 100% as Khurshudyan reveals that Backstrom would not be able to take faceooffs.
“Backstrom hurt his hand blocking a shot in Game 5 of Washington’s second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he managed to play through the injury most of the game. One obvious limitation was that he stopped taking faceoffs; versatile winger Chandler Stephenson stepped in for draws instead. On Wednesday, Trotz said he wouldn’t have any reservations about playing Backstrom if he is still limited in that area. “No one is completely healthy this time of year,” head coach Barry Trotz said,” we can read in Khurshudyan’s piece on Thursday morning.
The Caps suffered their first loss of the series on Tuesday night, and while they still lead the Eastern Conference Finals 2-1 over the Lightning, they could need a boost from Backstrom to get back on track and allow him more time to recover from that nagging hand injury.
However, with the Bolts aware of his ailment, it might be dangerous to send him out there as Tampa Bay might look to finish him off for the rest of the postseason.
Seeing that Backstrom is now holding his stick and participating in hockey drills more constantly looks like a sign that he could return for crucial Game 4 despite still being injured from the previous round.
“He’s a player who has a lot of impact on our team. He’s one of the guys that leads in the locker room. When you need a big play, a big performance, he’s usually one of the guys that will step up," added Trotz.
In 11 playoff games so far this spring, Backstrom has tallied three goals and 10 assists for 13 points. The 30-year-old had 21 goals and 50 assists in the regular season.