The Capitals come off a 5-1 beat down from the Buffalo Sabres last night and only four players practiced today, none of whom played in the game. Nicklas Backstrom, Joel Ward, Jeff Halpern and Tomas Vokoun were the only ones on ice, all the rest had a video session.
“It was a hard game last night and a lot of emotions involved,” Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said. “Save the legs, it’s like playoff hockey now where your legs are the most important thing that carry around the ice. So we just give them time off to rest them.”
Nicklas Backstrom, who hasn’t played since January 3rd with a concussion, is traveling with the team for their one game trip to Boston to play the Bruins tomorrow.
But both Hunter and Backstrom said that Backstrom wouldn’t play tomorrow.
“Nope. Not tomorrow,” Backstrom said. “So we’ll see. We’ll take it day-by-day and see where it goes.”
Backstrom has skated 15 of the last 16 and was only cleared to practice with the team last Saturday. Backstrom played in 38 games before the injury and had 13 goals and 29 assists. It took approximately five weeks before anyone passed him in points and he’s still tied for fourth on the team.
“Well, I’m close. I’m close to playing, I think,” Backstrom said. “Obviously it takes a while to get back in normal shape. But we don’t have too much time, either. I’m feeling good. I’ve been practicing good the last couple days and I’ve been pushing it a little bit too.”
This will be the first time Backstrom has been on the road with the team since he went January 5th to California with them, before he was having symptoms.
Goalie Tomas Vokoun (25-17-2, 2.53 GAA, .916 Save pct.) says he is available to play tomorrow.
“I feel like I can play 100 percent,” Vokoun said.
Vokoun hasn’t played since March 16th and has only played in three games this month due to a groin injury.
“[I felt] very good today, really good the last two days and two hard practices,” Vokoun said. “So we’ll see.”
Joel Ward, who hasn’t played since March 22nd after taking a puck off his foot during the Flyers game, is also getting closer to a return.
“I think I feel pretty good,” Ward said. “It gets better and better each day. I’m just kind of waiting to see if I can maybe get in. We’re just going wait and see. But I feel pretty good overall.”
His status is uncertain for tomorrow.
The Caps are in some trouble as they’re currently ninth in the Eastern Conference with only five games left. The top eight make the playoffs and the Caps will need to make up some ground down the stretch as their two points behind the Buffalo Sabres for eighth place, four points behind the Ottawa Senators for seventh place and five points behind the Florida Panthers for tops in the Southeast Division, but the Panthers have a game in hand.
“We got to do whatever it takes to win hockey games right now,” Caps forward Matt Hendricks said. “Whether it be blocking shots, any of those little intangibles that are going to help us win.”
The Bruins (45-28-3, 93 points) are 5-5-0 in their last ten and have won three in a row. The Caps are 2-1-0 against the Bruins this year and beat the Bruins in Boston the last time they played, 4-3 on March 10th.
“We have to be at our best to beat Boston because they’re a good team,” Hunter said. “We all know that they’re solid so we have to be at our best. We can’t give them chances like we did last night or it will be in the back of our net.”
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Nicklas Backstrom, Tomas Vokoun, Karl Alzner, Matt Hendricks and Michal Neuvirth had to say before they catch a flight this afternoon to Boston.
Dale Hunter Practice Audio
Nicklas Backstrom Practice Audio
Tomas Vokoun Practice Audio
Karl Alzner Practice Audio
Matt Hendricks Practice Audio
Michal Neuvirth Practice Audio