The biggest question facing the Capitals during their upcoming training camp is the status of star center Nicklas Backstrom, who sustained a reported neck injury during a Dec. 26 game while playing for Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Backstrom, 25, was back in Washington on Tuesday and at the team's Arlington headquarters just 48 hours after the NHL lockout was halted by a tentative agreement with the NHL Players' Association. But until the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified by the owners and players later this week, the team's medical staff can't examine him.
"There are some things we can talk about, some things we can't, and we can't talk about the fitness or health of any players until training camp," Washington general manager George McPhee said. "I'd be happy then."
Backstrom, of course, missed 40 games last season but was brilliant when he was actually on the ice with 14 goals and 30 assists. But a concussion suffered Jan. 3, 2012, against the Calgary Flames ruined his season. McPhee said he is hopeful training camp and those ensuing medical evaluations will happen Saturday.
"I think he's doing well. It was not as dirty than [the hit] before [by Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque]. But sometimes it's not hard hit, you just feel a little dizzy," said teammate Alex Ovechkin, who also played with Backstrom for Dynamo. "We'll see how it goes."
Ovechkin added: "I think it's just a situation, you know, it's contact game. It's physical game. Even in KHL it's very good level out there. Again, it happens. So nothing you can do."
But there isn't much time to recover, either. In an email to The Washington Examiner, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that as of Tuesday afternoon the league's plan was to open training camps Sunday with the first game on Jan. 19. Backstrom did not participate in an informal skate at Kettler Iceplex on Tuesday with nine of his teammates.
Backstrom returned to play in the final four regular-season games last spring and had two goals and six assists in 13 Stanley Cup playoff games.
- Brian McNally