Tag: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Nicklas Backstrom

Caps’ Backstrom won’t rush return from hip surgery


Nicklas Backstrom is “not in a rush” to return from hip surgery and his status for the Washington Capitals’ season opener is very much in question.

“I’m going to be back to 100 percent before I start playing,” Backstrom told the Washington Post. “I’m not going to play on 90 percent. We’ll see how it goes. We don’t know yet.”

The Washington Capitals forward has been skating since the start of August and is feeling much better, but he realizes that he’s still very much in the recovery process and it’s hard to put a timetable on it.

When he’s healthy, Backstrom is Washington’s top center and one of the best playmakers in the world. He led the NHL with 60 assists in 2014-15 and has finished in the top-three in helpers on five separate occasions. The 27-year-old is projected to once again skate alongside Alex Ovechkin on the top line.

If he’s not healthy for the start of the season, then it will be interesting to see how Washington alters its lines in the short-term. Evgeny Kuznetsov is penciled in as the second line center, so we might see the sophomore play with Ovechkin in Washington’s first game.

PHT Morning Skate: Putin, Ovechkin, Malkin vs. students

Vladimir Putin

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

To start the school year, Russian president Vladimir Putin skated on a team that included Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Pavel Bure and faced off against students. You can see footage of that below:

(H/T Puck Daddy and the Associated Press)

Jake Dowell, who is a veteran of 157 NHL games, has been invited to AHL Rockford’s training camp on a tryout basis. (IceHogs.com)

Braden Holtby’s retro-styled mask has been unveiled. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

In the same vein, Michal Neuvirth’s “Rocky” mask has been revealed. (NHL.com)

Red Wings GM Ken Holland reflects on some of the changes in strategy and challenges the Red Wings have endured over the cap era as they look to make the playoffs for a 25th consecutive campaign. (RedWings.nhl.com)

Evgeny Kuznetsov hopes to spend his entire career with the Washington Capitals. (Washington Post)

Capitals’ biggest question: Is this finally the year?

Washington Capitals v New Jersey Devils

Of the 12 NHL teams that have never won the Stanley Cup, there may not be a more optimistic one heading into 2015-16 than the Washington Capitals. 

Here’s why:

— Alex Ovechkin just won his third straight Rocket Richard Trophy. At 29, he remains the NHL’s most dangerous goal-scorer. On top of that, the Caps appear to have found the right coach for the Russian superstar in Barry Trotz.

— The Caps also appear to have found a second-line center in young Evgeny Kuznetsov. If the 23-year-old continues to progress — and there’s no good reason he shouldn’t — Washington could have quite the 1-2 combo at center in Nicklas Backstrom and Kuznetsov.

— Defenseman John Carlson is emerging as one of the top blue-liners in the NHL. And at 25, he may get even better.

— Goalie Braden Holtby continues to post strong numbers. His .923 save percentage last season was tied with Pekka Rinne and one point better than Tuukka Rask.

Now throw in the additions of veterans T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to go with youngsters Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson, and what emerges is a roster where a glaring weakness is pretty tough to find.

OK, sure, there are concerns. Like maybe the Caps will miss Mike Green more than they think. Ditto for Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and/or Eric Fehr. If Washington’s young players don’t step up next season, it’s hard to picture this team hoisting the Cup.

But that’s true of any team, really.

“I’d say the next three or four years is the window,” GM Brian MacLellan said in May.

Given how quickly the landscape of a young man’s league can change, it may turn out to be a shorter window than that.

The Caps have a real opportunity in 2015-16. Can they finally get it done?

Related: Green calls this year’s Caps ‘the best team we’ve had overall’