Karl Alzner didn't officially know the deal with Nicklas Backstrom on Saturday morning, but he saw the Washington Capitals star center getting dressed to go on the ice for practice. So did others.

"I think you saw a few more guys out for the optional skate today because of that reason, because they wanted to get out there and skate with Nicky a little bit," Alzner said with a big smile. "Everybody gets real excited when he's out there."

No one was more excited than Backstrom himself, finally cleared for full participation in Caps practices with no restrictions. That means contact and everything, a significant step as he hopes to return from a concussion suffered Jan. 3.

"I've been looking forward to this for 2½ months. I'm kind of happy right now," Backstrom said. "It's good to practice with the guys. It feels pretty good out there. I haven't been skating long, but it feels all right right now."