Capitals star center Nicklas Backstrom confirmed on Friday that he visited with concussion specialist Jeffrey Kutcher at the University of Michigan on Wednesday and that he’s been given full clearance.
“I feel good, a hundred percent,” Backstrom said after taking part in an hour-long workout with teammates at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “I know there’s a lot of speculation about what’s going on but it’s something I wanted to check out. It’s no concussion. We can all be calm.”
Sidelined since getting checked head-first into the boards on Dec. 26 while playing for Moscow Dynamo of the Kontinental Hockey League, Backstrom returned from Russia on Sunday but was concerned enough about the neck pain associated with the hit to visit with Kutcher, a neurologist who heads the University of Michigan NeuroSport program and is an NHL Players’ Association consultant on concussions.
“It was more the neck, a stiff neck,” Backstrom said.
“I think everyone in the league is going to be more careful about it. It’s your head and you only have one head. You gotta make sure you’re a hundred percent and you can perform out there.”
Backstrom, 25, sat out 40 games with a concussion last season. He still finished with 14 goals and 30 assists for 44 points in 42 games.
“It was a tough battle last year,” Backstrom said. “Something you don’t want to go through, to be away for 40 games. Hopefully, that’s something I only do once in my career. I’m only looking forward and being positive about everything now.”
Backstrom said that despite the injury he enjoyed playing for Moscow Dynamo and expects to be in game shape when the season opens next weekend. The Caps are expected to open the regular season on Saturday, Jan. in Tampa.
Asked if he expects to be in the lineup on opening night, Backstrom smiled and said, “Absolutely, if I make the lineup.”