Backstrom shooting more

Backstrom shooting more
November 7, 2011, 9:00 pm
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All you had to do was read the back of Nicklas Backstrom's sweaty T-shirt to get an idea how he felt about being recognized as the NHL's Third Star of the Week.

"Get Ready," it read, above a picture of the Stanley Cup. "It's Our Time."

It certainly appears to be Backstrom's time.

Now in his fifth NHL season, Backstrom, 23, has five goals and 13 assists in 12 games, putting him on pace for 34 goals, 88 assists and 122 points -- all career highs. He shares the NHL lead in assists with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron and Vancouver Canucks center Henrik Sedin.

"I think he deserves it," said linemate Alex Ovechkin, who is coming off one of his best offensive games of the season. "He's a mature guy. He's not a kid anymore and we're not kids anymore."

Backstrom began last week by notching the game-tying goal with 42 seconds left in regulation and the overtime winner as the Caps defeated Anaheim 5-4 on Nov. 1. He netted one goal and one assist in a 5-1 victory in Carolina on Friday and posted two assists in a 5-3 loss on Long Island on Saturday.

Backstrom acknowledged that playing the final two months of last season with an injured thumb adversely affected his offensive totals. He finished with 18 goals and 47 assists.

"You play better when you're healthy and I struggled a little bit with my thumb," Backstrom said. "I feel better now. I feel like I'm shooting more this year. Hopefully, I can continue."

Backstrom has recorded 34 shots in 12 games, putting him on pace for 232 this season, 30 more than last year and 10 more than his career high of two seasons ago.

Like Swedish countryman Peter Forsberg, who was often encouraged to shoot more, Backstrom admits his first tendency is to pass.

"(Forsberg) was my favorite player when I was young," Backstrom said. "I didn't want to try to be like him, but I just liked his style. I like to pass, but I have to try to shoot it more and that's what I'm trying to do this year."

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he has noticed Backstrom shooting more this season, but does not want him to stray too far from his abilities as one of the NHL's top playmakers.

"It's ingrained in their DNA," he said. "Some guys are just great passers. They see the ice so well and they're so unselfish with the puck they probably have to tell themselves, 'Shoot more, shoot more,' because it's not a natural thing. I don't know if that's the case with Nick. I just know that's the case with a lot of tremendous passers.

"We remind him to shoot more, but for the most part he makes the right play all the time."