Capitals: Backstrom and Wilson will play their first game on Sunday

Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson will play their first game of the season with the Washington Capitals when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena on Sunday (5 p.m. ET; SN1, SNE, SNO, NBSCWA, BSOH, ESPN+, SN NOW).

Backstrom’s name was removed from the long-term injured list on Saturday after recovering from a June 17 left hip resurfacing. Wilson’s name no longer appears on the injured list either. He has recovered from surgery to repair a ligament in his left knee suffered on May 24.

READ ALSO : Backstrom’s return to play, as seen by Ed Jovanovski

« I’m not going to put any pressure on myself, » Backstrom said Wednesday. “All I can say is that I feel good and, as I said earlier, the most important thing for me is that I don’t feel any pain. I am able to skate and move as I want. I hope that will be enough. »

Backstrom will become the second player in NHL history to return to action after undergoing hip resurfacing, following defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who played 37 games with the Florida Panthers in 2013-14 after undergoing such intervention. He then retired after seeing the last year of his contract bought out.

Backstrom has played despite pain in his left hip for the past two seasons. The 35-year-old underwent arthroscopic hip surgery in 2015 and was hoping to avoid a second procedure when the pain resurfaced at the end of the 2020-21 season.

Backstrom missed the first 28 games of last season to recover. Upon his return, he had 31 points (six goals, 25 assists) in 47 games and six points (two goals, four assists) in as many Stanley Cup Playoff games. But due to the pain he had to deal with at the end of the season, he quickly realized that he could not tolerate the situation any longer.

The center, who is in the third season of a five-year contract worth $46 million (average annual salary of $9.2 million) signed in 2020, hopes to become an impact player again with Washington. He is second in Capitals history, behind Alex Ovechkinwith 1,011 points (264 goals, 747 assists) in 1,058 games over 15 NHL seasons.

« I feel great, » Backstrom said. I enjoy being on the ice. I have worked hard in the past few weeks. I feel good. »

Wilson tore a ligament in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round Series against the Florida Panthers last season. The striker was expected to need six to eight months to get back on his feet.

« I feel good, » Wilson said on Wednesday. “Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt like myself again, and it’s only a matter of time. I feel better and better, I don’t worry about it and I don’t think about it too much. It’s the last step in this process where you want to find your bearings and not think about rehabilitation and all that entails, but simply playing hockey. »

Wilson had his best season of his career last year with 24 goals, 28 assists and 52 points in 78 games. In his 10th NHL season, all with the Capitals, Wilson has 273 points (115 goals, 158 assists) in 647 regular season games.

« I want to be the player I was before all of this, » Wilson said. That’s what I have in mind and that’s my goal. Maybe I could have returned to the game a month ago, but I wouldn’t have been the player I wanted to be. This whole process has been put in place by the team medical staff and the surgeon to ensure that when I return I will be the player I want to be.

“It is certain that I will need a few games to find my rhythm. But I want to get back into the game and do everything I can to help the team get to the playoffs. »

Although they had to deal with the injuries of several key players like Backstrom, Wilson and the defender John Carlson, the Capitals (22-14-6) are 12-2-2 since Dec. 5 and hold the No. 4 playoff spot in the East. Washington had at least one point in nine straight games (7-0-2) before a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Friday.

“I tell myself that since the team is playing really well, it could help me, believes Backstrom. It will help me in the first games when I return. But at the same time, I don’t intend to come back to the game and change everything. I’m just going to try to be part of this team and win hockey games. »

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