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Backstrom and Wilson are ready to debut this season with the Capitals

ARLINGTON, Virginia.Niklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson finally ready to return to the Washington Capitals.

The team said on Saturday that Backstrom and Wilson are activated from the injured reserve to debut in the respective season. The playmaker center and powerful winger are expected to play on Sunday when Capital Cities hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Backstrom underwent surgery during the off-season to repair the surface of his left thigh due to a nagging injury that prevented him from skating. He is only the second NHL player to return from surgery, after Ed Jovanovski in 2014.

“I’m not going to put pressure on myself,” Backstrom said this week. “All I can say is that I feel great and the most important thing for me is that I have no pain, that I can skate and move the way I want. I hope that’s enough.”

Wilson underwent surgery to repair a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament. in his left knee. He was injured in Game 1 of the Capitals’ first-round series against the Florida Panthers on May 3.

“I expect that I should be where I used to be,” Wilson said. “The only acceptable outcome. I want to be the player I used to be, so I had this whole process in mind and that was my goal.”

The two longest-serving players in the organization spent several months recovering and preparing for a comeback. Despite Backstrom’s absence, Wilson and Washington bounced back from a slow start and qualified for the playoffs midway through the NHL season.

Defenseman John Carlson, who was out long-term after being hit by the puck on December 23, went to the long-term reserve with injuries to make room for the salary cap for the return of Backstrom and Wilson. Two more lineup changes are expected later on Saturday.

It wasn’t immediately clear what they would be, though the team could send young forward Alexei Protas to the AHL’s Hersheys without waivers to free up one spot. The other may come from forwards Joe Snively or Nicolas-Obe Kubel, who waived the rights and were either declared or nominated by Hershey.

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Follow AP hockey writer Steven Wyno on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SWhyno.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports.

Copyright 2023 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.



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