Backstrom has missed several months because of the concussion, and no date has been set in stone for his return. However, being able to practice is a positive step in Backstrom's recovery.
According to CSNWashington.com, Backstrom “skated hard” but didn’t partake in any battle drills, even though he’s been cleared for contact. Presumably he’ll want to take a few pushes and shoves before getting back into game action.
While the team would be foolish to thrust him back into NHL action before he's ready, the Capitals could certainly use his elite offensive talents as they desperately try to clinch a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Capitals are currently tied with the Buffalo Sabres for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, and are two points behind the seventh-place Ottawa Senators. The Winnipeg Jets, who are six points back of the Capitals and Sabres, also cannot be counted out of the playoff race just yet.
Washington would be quite fortunate to have Backstrom back before the regular season ends. They have six games remaining, and four of them are against quality opponents (Buffalo, Boston, Florida, New York Rangers).
However, the Capitals must be careful with Backstrom. He's capable of being a 100-point player when healthy, and there's no reason to sacrifice the future of his promising career by putting him into the fire of the playoff race when he's not ready.
The best-case scenario for Backstrom might be playing in the final two games of the season, which are against the Panthers and the Rangers, respectively. The team's playoff hopes could come down to the results of those two games.
It's encouraging that Backstrom is able to take part in practice and skate, but the Capitals must resist the pressure of making the playoffs and ensure their star center returns only when ready.
Nicholas Goss is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and was the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals in Boston. Follow him on Twitter:
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