Nicklas Backstrom could miss Capitals' season opener

Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO -- The good news for Washington Capitals fans is that top center Nicklas Backstrom is back on the ice after offseason surgery to repair a nagging hip injury.

What remains unclear, however, is whether Backstrom will be ready for the start of the regular season on Oct. 10, when the Capitals entertain the New Jersey Devils.

"I don’t really know exactly the timetable," Backstrom told ESPN.com Tuesday.

"But it’s progressing and I started skating again. It feels a lot better. But I wish I could tell you a date but we’ll see how it goes in the next couple of weeks and we’ll go from there."

Backstrom had a typically strong year for the Capitals in 2014-15 with 78 points while playing in all 82 games. His 60 assists led the NHL And he added eight points in 14 postseason games before the Capitals were knocked out in the second round by the New York Rangers.

But Backstrom was not at 100 percent by the time the Capitals lost in a Game 7 and in fact had not been for much of the second half of the season.

"It got worse [as] the season got along," Backstrom said. "Started pretty early actually. But not too bad. But it was more in between games too that’s when it was mostly sore. So it was just in the back of my head all the time.

"But at the same time it was good to do something, especially when we had almost four months between last season and this season. I feel good about it."

It’s believed the surgical procedure should prevent Backstrom from having hip issues moving forward.

"No it shouldn’t be a problem. I mean it feels better than before so that’s a good sign. So hopefully it’ll stay like this," Backstrom said.

One thing seems certain. The Capitals believe they are close to getting over the hump in the playoffs. Under head coach Barry Trotz the team’s identity evolved last season to a bigger, heavier team that was difficult to play against. This offseason general manager Brian MacLellan added T.J. Oshie and three-time Stanley Cup winner Justin Williams.

In short, the Capitals will not be rushing Backstrom back into action in early October if they feel it could impair his ability to be a productive top-line center in late May and June.

Backstrom, who will turn 28 in November, certainly is preaching patience.

"We’ve talked about it and we’re not going to rush it. So we’ll see how it goes," he said.

"It feels a lot better though. It feels good on the ice. We’ll see. I’m sure me, the doctor and the coach will evaluate it when it gets a little closer to training camp so we’ll go from there."