With a little luck, Nicklas Backstrom would be facing off against the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals this week, not Latvia and the Czech Republic.
But since the Capitals had their season ended by the New York Rangers over the weekend and injuries prevented Backstrom from representing Sweden in the past two World Championships, the 24-year-old center hopped a plane on Monday for Helsinki, Finland.
I was hurt for 40 games with a concussion and I wanted to support my country, Backstrom said. Ive been hurt the lat two yeas when I was supposed to go and I want to play for them.
Backstrom recorded an assist and won 12 of 21 faceoffs to help Sweden defeat Latvia 4-0 on Tuesday in the final game of the preliminary round. Sweden carries a 6-1 record into Thursdays game against the Czech Republic.
Backstrom is making his fourth appearance at the World Championships and has recorded 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 23 career tournament games.
Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin will join forces with Capitals top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov Thursday when Russia faces Norway.
Before leaving for Helsinki, Backstrom said he was disappointed in Dale Hunters decision to return to London, Ontario, saying he fostered something in Washington that had been missing in his previous four seasons.
He brought in so many good things, Backstrom said. Everybody, the whole team was closer this year than we were. We were just pushing each other and thats something we havent been doing the past couple years. I really liked the way we played.
Backstrom said that regardless of who the Capitals hire as their next coach, he believes a foundation of strong defensive hockey has been built for next season.
We changed a lot of things a lot of people didnt think could happen with this team, he said. We were committed to blocking shots, we were really playing good defensively and thats something weve got to build off.