Good news emerged from the Kettler Capitals Iceplex today, a day after the team suffered an embarrassing 4-3 overtime loss at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets, as a Caps spokesman confirmed that star center Nicklas Bäckström has been cleared to return to practice with the team, with no restrictions. He has not played since he suffered a concussion on January 5th.
It is expected that Bäckström will join his teammates for the morning skate tomorrow morning before the key 5 pm matchup against the Minnesota Wild at Verizon Center. The skate will be the first non-game, on-ice session he shares with his teammates January 6th, the morning after he was elbowed in the face by then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque, but it will be the 10th time he has skated fully in the past 11 days.
Perhaps most encouraging of all is the fact that the Swede will be practicing fully, with contact. This certainly seems to suggest that Bäckström is, if not completely, almost symptom-free.
Short-term, Bäckström returning to practice means nothing, if you consider short-term to be the remainder of the month of March. With concussions, there is never any way to speculate when a player might return, but with Bäckström the fear was always that he would be lost for the rest of the season. Caps fans should look to the case of Sidney Crosby as a comparison. While him returning to practice is a good sign, he should not be rushed.
With that said, it seems Bäckström might well return this season after all. After his concussion, Crosby practiced for about a week with full contact before returning to the Pittsburgh Penguins' lineup. As mentioned, we shouldn't hope to see him back in the lineup too soon, but with three vital regular season April games on the horizon, he could be back soon.
In more good (maybe) news, Evgeny Kuznetsov has admitted that "I said I was staying in the KHL so they'd leave me alone." (Igor Kleyner - RMNB) But we'll leave that for another time.