A concussion forced Mikael Backlund to go back to Calgary before Sweden was eliminated from the World Cup, but even after suffering the knock, Backlund said the tournament was worth it.
Among the injuries suffered at the World Cup, one of the most worrisome was the concussion Team Sweden center Mikael Backlund suffered in round robin action.
During Sweden’s game against Finland, Backlund was walloped in open ice by Finnish defenseman Sami Lepisto. The hit, arguably high and definitely dangerous, didn’t see Backlund head for the dressing room immediately, but following the game it was speculated that he had suffered a concussion and days later was out of the lineup against Team North America. It was then that he was checked on by Flames doctors and removed from the tournament.
But after more than a week away from the ice, Backlund is inching closer to a return, and the 27-year-old says there’s no reason to believe he’ll be forced to miss time when the season starts. In fact, he believes if Sweden would have advanced past Team Europe, there’s a good chance he could have played against Canada in the best-of-three series.
“If I would’ve stayed and we were in the final, I probably could have played,” Backlund said, according to the Calgary Sun’s Wes Gilbertson. “But looking at the big picture, to be thrown in for a final game — Game 2 or Game 3 — wouldn’t have been ideal, even though it would have been a great experience. So it was a good decision to go back (to Calgary), but right away, I didn’t feel that bad that I was worried.”
Having Backlund healthy and in the lineup is a big deal for the Flames as he’s quite possibly one of the most underrated players in the entire league. While he doesn’t get the headlines that Sean Monahan or Johnny Gaudreau gets, Backlund is an incredibly skilled two-way player and he’s found his scoring touch over the past few seasons.
In 2013-14, Backlund had his first 15-goal season, racking up 18 tallies and 39 points, and after a tough 2014-15 campaign, Backlund shone in 2015-16 with 21 goals and 47 points as an important piece of the middle six. Backlund may not be an all-star, but his usefulness at both ends of the ice makes him a key cog for the Flames.
And when the season starts, Backlund says that he’ll be able to hit the ice without many bumps. Though he suffered a concussion at the World Cup, he said the pre-season tournament helped to get him into game shape.
“Getting those few games before this camp, it was a good start,” Backlund said, according to Gilbertson. “Every shift mattered. There was a lot at stake every game, so it was a fun way to start a season.”
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.