There wasn’t much information to be had on the status of Caps center Nicklas Backstrom after Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames. A reckless elbow to the right side of Backstrom’s head by Calgary forward Rene Bourque appears to have done some damage. The club would only say that Backstrom was being evaluated by team doctors after the game and that he would not be made available to the media.
“We just removed him from the game there as a precautionary [measure],” Washington coach Dale Hunter said. “And he’s getting evaluated right now. We’ll know more [on Wednesday].”
Not what you want to hear for a player you could argue is the team’s most valuable at this point. Backstrom put on one of his best performances of the season with three assists. His deft pass in the second minute of play freed Marcus Johansson in the slot, who in turn gave Alex Ovechkin a nice feed for a one-timed goal.
“It's unbelievable. He's got such a good eye for the game,” Johansson said. “Those hands are pretty good. It's very fun to play with him; you can get the puck at any time. I think he had three points tonight, and he's pretty good…He's very easy to play with like that. I just gave a simple pass to him and he just found me right back and opened everything right up. Not a lot of guys can do that.”
Later, Backstrom earned a secondary assist for getting the puck to Ovechkin for a shot at the point. Troy Brouwer converted that rebound. And Backstrom knew the whole time he jumped on a loose puck off a Johansson rush and circled the net that Dennis Wideman was behind him waiting with his stick in the air. Backstrom’s pass was true and Wideman converted.
Backstrom has 13 goals and 29 assists. That ties him for eighth in the NHL in points (42). Can’t afford to lose a player like that for long. Tough not to speculate about the chances of a concussion after you see an obvious shot to the jaw. Backstrom skated over towards the box in between the two benches and was hunched over for a few moments to collect himself. But he stayed on the ice for a power play after Bourque earned two minutes for elbowing. He also took two shifts later in the third that each lasted 35 seconds, but did not return to the ice after the 3:19 mark. We’ve seen lesser shots than that knock players out for weeks. We’ve also seen players shake them off and return to practice within a day or two. We'll have a better idea Wednesday.
Bourque got Backstrom pretty good, though. After he was suspended two games just last month by NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan, Bourque is up for some more supplemental justice. How much? Well, at 15:25 of the first period in a Dec. 18 game at Chicago, Bourque was whistled for a major penalty for a check from behind on Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook. That was five minutes and a game misconduct. Seabrook missed the rest of that contest, but otherwise escaped unharmed. Can’t imagine Bourque gets less than those two games now that he’s in the system. Prior to that incident he’d never been fined or suspended by the NHL in his seven seasons. Making up for lost time, apparently.
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