Washington Capitals: A Healthy Nicklas Backstrom Gives Caps a Spark for 2013

Barry LeonardAnalyst IIIJanuary 12, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31:  Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals warms up before the game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Verizon Center on March 31, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Nicklas Backstrom, perhaps the most valuable player on the Washington Capitals, told reporters on Friday that he did not suffer a concussion and expects to be ready for opening night.

Backstrom said (via NHL.com), "I'm 100 percent" after skating with the team.

That's great news for the Caps, who rely on their star center to make plays with both his skating and passing skills. Backstrom appeared in just 42 games last season, and it's no coincidence that Washington's offense was lackluster.

A healthy Backstrom should bring excitement to a team that seems to be getting back to its offensive roots under new head coach Adam Oates. Last season, the Capitals struggled to score at times as then head coach Dale Hunter implemented a more defensive approach to the game.

In his five seasons with the Caps, the Swedish center has shown that he is one of the top centers in the NHL.

Playing alongside superstar Alex Ovechkin, the pair has brought a flashy style of play to our nation's capital. Since Backstrom came to Washington in 2007, the team has made the playoffs ever year.

To date, Backstorm's best statistical year came during the 2009-10 season, when he racked up 101 points with 33 goals and 68 assists. Ovechkin netted 50 goals that season, taking full advantage of having the playmaker as his center.

Until Friday's announcement, Washington fans feared that the season could begin without the top center out on the ice.

As reported by a  fan website, Russian Machine, the injury occurred on Dec. 26th while playing for Dynamo Moscow in Russia. Backstrom played in 19 games overseas during the offseason and netted 10 goals with 15 helpers (stats courtesy of hockeydb.com).

Heading into the shortened 2013 season, it will be important that teams get off to a quick start. A slow start during the first month could quickly put a team behind the eight ball when it comes to making the playoffs.

Having Backstrom ready to go for whenever the season kicks off will surely be a boost and will help the Capitals start strong on their journey to a Stanley Cup victory.