Backstrom, Wilson ready to make season debuts for Capitals

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson are finally ready to return for the Washington Capitals.

The team said Saturday that Backstrom and Wilson are being activated off injured reserve to make their respective season debuts. The playmaking center and power winger are expected to play Sunday when the Capitals host the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Backstrom had offseason left hip resurfacing surgery on a nagging injury that had hampered his ability to skate. He's just the second NHL player to return from the operation, following Ed Jovanovski in 2014.

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

Wilson underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. He was injured in Game 1 of the Capitals' first-round series against the Florida Panthers on May 3.

“My expectation is that I have to be where I was before,” Wilson said. “the only acceptable outcome. I want to be the player that I was before, so this whole process I’ve had that in mind and that’s been my goal.”

Two of the organization’s longest-tenured players have been rehabbing and ramping up to return for several months. Despite missing Backstrom, Wilson and Washington has rebounded from a slow start to move into a playoff position midway through the NHL season.

Defenseman John Carlson, who is out long term after taking a puck to the face Dec. 23, went on long-term injured reserve to clear salary cap space for Backstrom and Wilson to return. Two more roster moves are expected later Saturday.

It was not immediately clear what they would be, although the team can send young forward Aliaksei Protas to Hershey of the American Hockey League without waivers to clear one spot. The other could come from forwards Joe Snively or Nicolas-Aube Kubel going on waivers and either being claimed or assigned to Hershey.

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Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press