ARLINGTON, Va. – Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson are finally ready to return for the Washington Capitals.
The team said Saturday that Backstrom and Wilson are being activated off injured reserve to make their respective season debuts. The playmaking center and power winger are expected to play Sunday when the Capitals host the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Backstrom had offseason left hip resurfacing surgery on a nagging injury that had hampered his ability to skate. He's just the second NHL player to return from the operation, following Ed Jovanovski in 2014.
“I’m not going to put pressure on myself,” Backstrom said this week. “All I can say is I feel great, and the biggest thing for me is I have no pain, that I’m able to skate and move the way I want to. Hopefully that’s enough.”
Wilson underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. He was injured in Game 1 of the Capitals' first-round series against the Florida Panthers on May 3.
“My expectation is that I have to be where I was before,” Wilson said. “the only acceptable outcome. I want to be the player that I was before, so this whole process I’ve had that in mind and that’s been my goal.”
Two of the organization’s longest-tenured players have been rehabbing and ramping up to return for several months. Despite missing Backstrom, Wilson and Washington has rebounded from a slow start to move into a playoff position midway through the NHL season.
There has been a buzz around the locker room in recent weeks as Backstrom and Wilson started taking part in practices, shed no-contact jerseys and inched closer to playing again.
“To have those guys on the mend and on their way back is exciting,” said winger T.J. Oshie, who recently returned from a six-game injury absence. “There’s a lot of guys that have been working super hard to keep us in a solid position for when they get back, and I can’t say how good of a job everyone else has done with a lot of us being out for most of the season. It’ll be nice to get them back and have myself and them carry a little more of the load.”
To make room for their returns, the Capitals put Joe Snively on waivers and assigned fellow young forward Aliaksei Protas to Hershey of the American Hockey League. If Snively goes unclaimed and clears, he can be assigned to Hershey on Sunday.
To open up the necessary salary cap space, defenseman John Carlson, who is out after taking a puck to the face Dec. 23, went on long-term injured reserve. There is no timeframe for Carlson to come back.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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