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Backstrom, Wilson to make season debuts for Capitals against Blue … – NHL.com

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Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson will make their season debuts for the Washington Capitals when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena on Sunday (5 p.m. ET; SN1, SNE, SNO, NBCSWA, BSOH, ESPN+, SN NOW).
Backstrom was activated from long-term injured reserve on Saturday after recovering from resurfacing surgery on his left hip on June 17. Wilson was activated from injured reserve after recovering from a surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on May 24.
To make room for the forwards on its roster, Washington assigned forward Aliaksei Protas to Hershey of the American Hockey League and placed forward Joe Snively on waivers with the intention of assigning him to Hershey if he isn’t claimed by another team. In addition, defenseman John Carlson, who has not played since being struck in the right side of his face with a shot against the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 23, was placed on long-term injured reserve.
“I’m not going to put pressure on myself,” Backstrom said Wednesday. “All I can say is I feel great and, as I said earlier, the biggest thing for me is I have no pain, that I’m able to skate and move the way I want to. Hopefully that’s enough.”
Backstrom will become the second player to return to the NHL following hip resurfacing surgery, following defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who came back to play 37 games with the Florida Panthers in 2013-14 before retiring after having the final season on his contract bought out.
Backstrom said earlier this week that he is happy to be pain free again after dealing with an arthritic hip the previous two seasons. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left hip in 2015 and had hoped to avoid a second procedure after it began to bother him again late in the 2020-21 season.
Last season, the 35-year-old missed the first 28 games while rehabbing his hip. Although he was able to return to get 31 points (six goals, 25 assists) in 47 regular-season games and six points (two goals, four assists) in six Stanley Cup Playoff games, the continuing pain forced Backstrom into what he called “kind of like the last resort” of having resurfacing surgery, which involves trimming and capping the head of femur with a smooth metal covering and inserting a thin metal shell in the hip socket.
The center, who is in the third season of a five-year, $46 million contract ($9.2 million average annual value) he signed on Jan. 14, 2020, hopes to return to being an impactful player for Washington. He is second in Capitals history behind Alex Ovechkin with 1,011 points (264 goals, 747 assists) in 1,058 games over 15 NHL seasons.
“I’m feeling great,” Backstrom said. “Just fun being out there. We’ve been working hard the last couple of weeks. I feel good.”
Wilson tore his left ACL in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Florida Panthers last season. The forward’s recovery was projected to take 6-8 months.
“I’m feeling good,” Wilson said Wednesday. “The last couple weeks I’ve felt myself so it’s just a matter of time but I’m starting to feel a lot better and not worrying about it and not thinking about it as much. So, it’s good and it’s kind of the last step of the process is just getting back to feeling like yourself and not worrying about the rehab process or anything like that and just playing hockey.”
Wilson set NHL career highs in goals (24), assists (28) and points (52) in 78 games last season. In 10 NHL seasons, all with the Capitals, Wilson has 273 points (115 goals, 158 assists) in 647 regular-season games.
“I want to be the player that I was before, so this whole process I’ve had that in mind and that’s been my goal,” Wilson said. “Maybe I could’ve been back possibly a month ago, but I wouldn’t have been the player I wanted to be. I wouldn’t have been the player that I was last year. So, this whole process has been designed with our support team and our medical staff and surgeon and everything to make sure that when I’m back, I’m the player I want to be.
“And obviously, there’s going to be a couple games to get my feet under me. But just come back and do whatever I can to chip in and help the team keep moving forward and push towards the playoffs.”
Despite dealing with a host of injuries to key players such as Backstrom, Wilson and Carlson, the Capitals (22-14-6) are 12-2-2 since Dec. 5 and hold the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Washington had points in nine straight (7-0-2) prior to a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Friday.
“One way to look at it is maybe when the team is playing this good, maybe that’s going to benefit me,” Backstrom said. “They are going help me out the first couple of games getting back. But at the same time, I’m not going to come in and change things up. I just got to try to be part of the team and win hockey games.”

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