Responding to a Swedish newspaper report cited by the Washington Post, the Capitals have denied that injured center Nicklas Backstrom returned to his native Sweden to see a concussion specialist.
Backstrom, 24, has been out of the Caps lineup since Jan. 3 after being elbowed in the head by then-Calgary forward Rene Bourque. Backstrom’s missed the last 27 games as a result and now, according to a Google-translated version of Swedish newspaper Expressen, he’s currently in his homeland seeking treatment.
While the Caps haven’t commented on the Expressen report, they have confirmed Backstrom’s currently in Sweden — but to spend time with his family, not seek medical advice. (The Caps had a similar situation last year when they allowed concussed defenseman Mike Green to leave the team.)
More, from The Post:
Last month when he met with reporters in Washington, Backstrom said it has been tough for him to come to the practice facility regularly yet not have any indication of when he might skate or play again.
Backstrom has been in Sweden for a little more than a week already and is not expected to return until Sunday.
Last season, when Mike Green was sidelined with a concussion, he too was given the opportunity to get away from the daily hockey grind and return home.
The Caps have struggled mightily since losing Backstrom, who was their leading scorer. They’ve gone 11-13-3 without him in the lineup, falling to ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.
Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.
The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.
According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”
Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:
The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.
Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.
In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two: