Washington Capitals star Nicklas Backstrom skated Wednesday and appears to be getting closer to playing after missing more than two months due to a concussion.
Backstrom, who has been out since Jan. 3 after taking an elbow to the head from then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque, reported that he's been feeling better despite being on the ice the last two days.
"I felt good," Backstrom said. "There was no problems at all. I've been improving a lot. I don't have the same feeling I had from when I first got the hit."
Backstrom is still on the long-term injured reserve list so his return isn't imminent. Even he doesn't know how much longer he'll be out.
"We'll see what happens," Backstrom said. "The only thing I can tell you now is I'm on the ice skating light. We'll go from there. It's a process and we're working on it. I want to be out there so bad. A concussion is nothing to play around with. You want to make sure you're 100% before you go out there."
Backstrom is still fourth in Caps scoring with 13 goals and 29 assists in 38 games.
AVERY WON'T SIGN
Either it's a final slap in the face of New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather or a savvy business decision.
Whatever the case, supposedly retired NHL bad boy Sean Avery has reportedly refused to sign his retirement papers and plans on collecting the remainder of the money he's owed under the terms of his current contract, which expires after the season ends.
"Last I read he announced that he was retiring," Sather told the New York Times. "So we sent him his retirement papers, but of course he wouldn't sign them. So I don't have any idea what he's doing."
Avery announced his retirement on a U.S. cable talk show Monday night but his agent, Pat Morris, later said it was a joke. Avery then told the New York Post "that wasn't a joke; yes, I'm retiring at the end of the season and it's OK."
JAGR FLYERS' NOMINEE
Forward Jaromir Jag, who returned from exile in the KHL this season, is the Philadelphia Flyers' nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy.
With 18 goals and 28 assists in 60 games with the Flyers, Jagr has been one of the league's feel-good stories this season. The 40-year-old Czech returned to the NHL after three seasons with Avangard Omsk, signing as a free agent with the Flyers over the summer.
Earlier this week the Montreal Canadiens tabbed 30-goal scorer Max Pacioretty as their nom for the award, which goes to the player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." Pacioretty missed the last part of the 2010-11 season after having his neck broken on a hit into a stanchion by Boston defenceman Zdeno Chara.
Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene was expected to miss nearly a month due to an right ankle injury but will return to the lineup after missing just nine days. Duchene will probably play Thursday against the New Jersey Devils ... The San Jose Sharks signed University of Vermont forward Sebastien Stalberg to a two-year, entry-level contract. The newest Shark is the younger brother of Chicago forward Viktor Stalberg ,,, University of Connecticut forward Cole Schneider inked a two-year, entry-level deal with the Ottawa Senators. Schneider had 23 goals and 22 assists in 38 games to lead the Huskies in scoring this season.