Optimism in Washington — Backstrom making good progress

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The Washington Capitals got a scare this morning when Alex Ovechkin was forced to leave practice after a huge collision with teammate Mike Knuble, but that fear was offset by optimism surrounding the improved health of star center Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom, out since Jan. 3 with a concussion, spoke with reporters today after skating in pads for the third straight day.

CSNWashington.com has the wide-ranging Q&A here.

In brief:

—- Backstrom is symptom-free.

—- He’s made progress over the last few weeks. “I really felt like this is going forward.”

—- He feels good on the ice, though admits “it can still get better.”

—- A recent trip to Sweden served to get his mind off hockey and quell the frustration of being out of the lineup.

—- He’s not going to rush back, though it’s tempting to.

After four straight wins, Washington finds itself three points clear of ninth place in the Eastern Conference, so there isn’t quite the same desperation to get Backstrom out there again. If he can return for the playoffs, the Capitals would be thrilled.