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WASHINGTON (AP) Nicklas Backstrom did so well on faceoffs with an injured
hand he even surprised himself.

”It’s the playoffs Authentic
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,” Backstrom said after the Washington
Capitals‘ 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night that evened the
Eastern Conference final at two games apiece. ”You’ve just got to grind. It felt
good on the first couple faceoffs, so I just kept taking them.”

Returning from a four-game absence with a right hand injury, Backstrom won
six of nine faceoffs and looked more like himself as the night wore on. With
Game 5 looming Saturday night at Tampa Bay, Backstrom’s improvement is one of
the keys to Washington bouncing back from consecutive home losses.

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”I should get back to normal,” Backstrom said after playing 18:51 night in
his return. ”I feel really good. I don’t know (how normal) exactly. If I didn’t
feel good, I wouldn’t play. The doctors wouldn’t let me play Cheap
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, either.”

Team doctors cleared Backstrom to play around lunchtime, and by pregame
warmups he was drawing an ovation from fans thrilled to see him back in the
lineup. The crowd roared when Backstrom won the faceoff on his first shift, and
he got back into a rhythm centering the third line.

”It was so fun to be back out there,” Backstrom said. ”It’s where everyone
wants to be. You want to be on the ice. It’s just too bad we didn’t get the

A hard-luck loss included two penalties by fill-in No. 2 center Lars Eller,
who has five in the past two games. Coach Barry Trotz didn’t mess with his top
two lines, but Backstrom could easily be promoted to skate with Jakub Vrana and
T.J. Oshie in Game 5.

”We’re going to need him pushing forward Cheap B.J.
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, especially now that he has a game under him,”
goaltender Braden Holtby said. ”He’ll take on more minutes and a bigger role.
You could tell as the game went on he was getting more and more comfortable, so
he’s going to be a much-needed asset for us in these next few games, for

Backstrom appears ready to do that. The 30-year-old Swedish center hadn’t
played since taking a slap shot from Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz on May 5, but
if it were up to him, he would have been back much sooner.

”Nick has been champing at the bit for a while now http://www.miamidolphinsteamonline.com/minkah-fitzpatrick-jersey ,”
said Trotz, lauding Backstrom’s game. ”We’ve been holding him back a little bit,
but he’s ready to go.”

Even on a team featuring Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals have gone how Backstrom
has gone for the better part of a decade. He’s the second-longest-tenured player
on the team, and this was his first career game in the conference finals.

”As a hockey player, you want to play Authentic
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,” Backstrom said. ”It feels nice to be

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at


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