When Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty vaulted Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom into the glass alongside the Capitals players’ bench early in the second period Tuesday night, 18,000 fans saw the Caps’ playoff hopes flash before their eyes.
After the game, Capitals coach Adam Oates said Backstrom did not return to the game for “precautionary” reasons, leading to speculation that his “upper body injury” may be to his left shoulder and not a concussion.
“We don’t play until Boston [on Saturday], a couple days,” Oates said. “Precautionary.”
Later in the third period, with 2:38 remaining in regulation, defenseman Jack Hillen and right wing Alex Ovechkin got into a nasty open-ice collision and Hillen appeared to lose consciousness on the ice.
Oates said Hillen was being evaluated after the game but was encouraged that he left the ice on his own power.
Backstrom’s injury comes as a time the Caps could be getting center Mikhail Grabovski back from a left ankle injury. Backstrom is second on the Capitals in scoring with 70 points, two behind Ovechkin, who had two goals and one assist against the Kings.
“Obviously, you miss Backy,” Oates said, “but every team has guys that go out. You’ve got 19 other guys that have to do the job.”
If Hillen is out for any length of time, John Erskine could return to the lineup for the first time since March 5.