The Capitals health concerns finally looked to be turning as star center Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) skated for the third day in a row, but a dark cloud quickly took over Kettler Capitals Iceplex as Alex Ovechkin collided with Mike Knuble in practice and stayed face down on the ice for a few minutes before heading to the bench under his own power, but doubled over, and then eventually walked back to the locker room.
Ovechkin, who has only missed one game this season due to injury, looked a little dazed and had his head in his hands for about three minutes on the bench before heading to the locker room.
“He’s fine,” Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said. “Just two big guys colliding at full speed.”
Hunter added that Ovechkin will be on the road trip, they head out for game two of a five game trip this afternoon, and is expected to be in the line up tomorrow in the big game against the Winnipeg Jets.
“It wasn’t his head,” Hunter said. “Just a big collision, it knocks the wind out of you, you lose your wind…that’s not fun.”
Mike Knuble was fine after the collision and talked to reporters following practice.
“I happen to see him at the last second,” Knuble said on the hit with Ovechkin. “I don’t know if he saw me, so it’s a lot of beef coming together there kind of full speed. When people don’t see eachother it get’s pretty dangerous.”
Knuble also called the collision “just stupid” and “embarrassing” since they have the whole ice to work.
Hunter said he didn’t know who was at fault.
The Caps are currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are three points ahead of ninth place Buffalo with a game in hand and four points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets. The Caps are also one point behind the Florida Panthers for tops in the Southeast Division, but the Panthers have played in one less game then the Caps.
The Caps, who beat the New York Islanders Tuesday 5-4 in a shootout, are in game two of a five game road trip. The next three games are in Winnipeg, Chicago and Detroit before the Caps come back for a few days before ending the road trip a week from today in Philadelphia. One player who wishes he was on the trip is Caps center Nicklas Backstrom.
Backstrom, who hasn’t played since suffering a concussion on January 3rd, after taking an elbow to the head by Rene Bourque, spoke to the media for the second time today. This time though things are looking up for Backstrom. Today was the third day in a row that he’s skated and by far his longest as he stayed on the ice for approximately 35 minutes. Backstrom said he’s not feeling any symptoms and when asked if this is as good as he has felt since the injury he said, “absolutely”.
“It felt good,” Backstrom said on his third day of skating in a row. “I’m improving I think from when I first got the hit.”
Backstrom went to Sweden for a few weeks and got back over the weekend and in a much better mood.
“I was changing the atmosphere a little bit,” Backstrom said on going to Sweden. “I was getting a little frustrated here when I saw the guys on the ice and obviously I wanted to play. I think it was a good thing for me to be back there and just think about other stuff then hockey. When I got back, I felt better and I can skate now so that’s good.”
There is no timetable for Backstrom’s return.
All of the healthy Capitals practiced today and the lines were the same as the last couple of games.
Mike Green has served his three game suspension and Dale Hunter said he would play tomorrow. Hunter said they haven’t decided on who will be a healthy scratch tomorrow with Green back in the line up.
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Mike Knuble, Nicklas Backstrom, Troy Brouwer, Karl Alzner and Matt Hendricks had to say today at practice.
Dale Hunter Practice Audio
Mike Knuble Practice Audio
Nicklas Backstrom Practice Audio
Troy Brouwer Practice Audio
Karl Alzner Practice Audio
Matt Hendricks Practice Audio