BOSTON When his head was healing from a concussion two months ago, Nicklas Backstrom lived by the credo of looking ahead and not back.
The Capitals 24-year-old center is taking the same approach to todays Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals 3 p.m., NBC, his first game back after serving a one-game suspension for cross-checking Bruins right wing Rich Peverley at the conclusion of Game 3 in Washington.
I apologized to everybody, Backstrom said. Im looking forward. Life goes on and its a new game.
Peverley said hes doing the same.
Its over, the league dealt with it, he said. I dont plan on playing any differently when Backstrom comes back. Well keep playing the body like we always do.
Prior to Game 3 Backstrom had never been suspended in his five-year NHL career. He said he was more nervous watching the Capitals 2-1 victory Thursday night, which evened the best-of-seven series at two wins apiece, than he would have been playing in it.
There were a lot of hits out there but maybe there was a little less rough stuff between the whistles than the last game, Backstrom said. Its two good teams out there and there are not a lot of chances.
Backstrom scored the game-winning overtime goal in Game 2 and could be reunited with Alex Ovechkin today in Boston.
At Fridays practice Backstrom centered a top line with Brooks Laich on his right and Ovechkin on his left. Keith Aucoin moved up to a second line with Marcus Johansson on his left and Alex Semin on his right. Jay Beagle centered a checking line with left wing Matt Hendricks and right wing Mike Knuble, and Mathieu Perreault centered a line with Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer.
If coach Dale Hunter goes with that lineup today, Joel Ward figures to be the odd man out, along with Jeff Halpern and Mattias Sjogren.
Hunter said he was happy with the play of rugged defenseman John Erskine in Game 4. Erskine replaced Jeff Schultz in the lineup and delivered three hits and was a minus-1 in 11:02 of ice time.
Neuvys return: After a week of practices, Michal Neuvirth will return to the lineup today as a backup to starting goaltender Braden Holtby. Neuvirth was injured in the Capitals playoff-clinching victory over the Florida Panthers on April 5 and has moved well in the crease in recent practices, but he says his lower body injury has not completely healed.
Im trying to get through the pain, Neuvirth said. Its not going to be 100 percent. It will need to heal up over the summer. It is what it is.
Neuvirth said hes been impressed with Holtbys strong showing in the playoffs. Through his first four games Holtby was 2-2 with a 1.60 GAA and .953 save percentage.
Holtbys playing great and the team is playing good defense, Neuvirth said.
Brouwer agreed, but said the Caps need to play tighter today than they did in Game 4 when they allowed five odd-man rushes.
We just have to play a little smarter and a lot tighter, Brouwer said. Holtsy saved us last game.