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Capitals’ Wilson, Backstrom Won’t Travel To Columbus, But Both “Pretty Close” To Returning Together

Head coach Peter Laviolette announced after Wednesday’s optional practice that both right-wing Tom Wilson and center Nicklas Backstrom will not accompany the Washington Capitals for their game at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday (7 PM ET, ESPN) but both are “pretty close” to making their season debuts.

Backstrom, 35, has been practicing with Washington since before Thanksgiving after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery in Belgium on June 2. He missed five days after getting placed on COVID-19 protocol but that is not expected to delay his season debut, according to Laviolette.

After being absent for the first 28 games of last season with the injured hip and returning for one game, Backstrom landed on COVID-19 protocol and missed the next two.

Wilson, 28, joined Washington for practice in mid-December after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL on May 25. He sustained the injury after playing just 1:31 in Game 1 of Washington’s first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series with the Florida Panthers on May 1. Wilson has not played since.

The return of two of their biggest contributors should give Washington, who is 14-3-3 in their past 20 games to climb in the thick of the Eastern Conference postseason race, a major boost. The challenge for the team will be to decide who Wilson and Backstrom will replace in an already deep forward group, which has averaged 3.28 goals-per-game (tied for 11th in the NHL) and clicked at a 21.7% efficiency on the power play (17th), with the team on a roll.

Backstrom finished last season with six goals and 31 points in 47 games a year after leading Washington in scoring. He also turned in four assists and six points in six postseason outings.

Wilson set career-highs in goals (24), assists (28), and points (52) in 78 games in 2021-22. He scored a power-play goal in his short postseason stint last Spring.

Washington, who concludes a set of back-to-back games vs. the Nashville Predators on Friday, is tied with the New York Rangers (who have a game in hand) for third place in the Metropolitan Division entering Wednesday.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077

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