Could Washington get Backstrom back this weekend?

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According to CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormely, there are rumblings that Nicklas Backstrom could be back in the Capitals lineup as early as this weekend.

The 24-year-old Swede, out since Jan. 3 with a concussion, participated in battle drills with Jeff Halpern and Joel Ward on Tuesday, fueling speculation that he could return for Washington’s final four games of the regular season:

“He’s doing battle drills, he’s getting ready for contact, and getting ready for games,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. “It takes these kind of resistance drills and he’s doing well.”

Well enough to get back into the lineup this week? If Backstrom continues to progress without setbacks some believe he may be in the lineup by the weekend, if not Thursday night’s game in Boston.

“I don’t know,” Hunter said, deferring to athletic trainer Greg Smith. “We’ll have to wait and see.

“You watch him play and he’s having fun,” Hunter said. “As a hockey player he’s glad to be back on the ice. This is what he’s been doing since he was a little kid. It’s nice to see him with a smile on his face.”

The Capitals host Buffalo tonight, then play in Boston on Thursday before going back to Verizon for a home date against Montreal on Saturday.

Backstrom resumed practicing fully on Mar. 26 and has yet to suffer any (reported) setbacks. His return would be huge for Washington’s playoff push — he was the team’s leading scorer prior to getting hurt, with 42 points in 38 games.

Update: Caps GM George McPhee reports Backstrom passed his latest baseline test “with flying colors.”