Karl Alzner looked good in drills on the first day of training camp, but the Capitals defenseman was held out of a grueling, timed conditioning test for precautionary reasons.
Alzner is in the final stages of recovering from a sports hernia and a groin muscle injury.
“With the intensity of that first practice and the [conditioning] skate, when you're that tired you just start to stride,” the 27-year-old said Friday. “Sometimes, it’s not pretty the strides that you take. To lessen the risk of something happening, just no need to do it. So that's something I can do further down the line.”
“Practice felt good,” Alzner said after the 90-minute session. “I'm pretty close. We've got to work on some leg conditioning now because that's something you really notice when it's not up to par, that starts to burn pretty fast and that's something that I can start to do now."
Associate coach Todd Reirden, who is filling in for Barry Trotz, said he liked what he saw from Alzner. (Trotz is in Toronto at the World Cup of Hockey serving as an assistant with Team Canada.)
“I did like how he looked in the drills,” Reirden said. “A couple of drills involved defending rushes—some one-on-ones and some two-on-twos—that was meant to push the pace of practice today. But we just felt, at this point, to do the skate test this early for him in camp after a hard practice was probably not the smartest thing."
Reirden also indicated that Alzner will play in the preseason and should be good to go for the regular season opener in Pittsburgh on Oct. 13. Assuming Alzner stays on target, that will allow him to extend his franchise record iron man streak, which currently sits at 458 consecutive games played.
“It’s nothing to be worried about or anything like that,” Reirden continued of Alzner sitting out the conditioning test. “It’s just being smart about what’s going on for him this summer.”
There are no restrictions, Alzner said, but he also acknowledged that he can't push too hard, too soon.
“The way the injury works is you work it, then back it off,” Alzner said. “So that's what I've been doing. If I feel like it needs to be backed off then I'll back off because the important thing is the beginning of October. We're just going to watch it but I went back to back days Monday, Tuesday this week and I felt fine. I didn't practice as hard as I had to today, so tomorrow will be pretty telling, but I think as of right now I feel pretty good.”
He added: “If I had to play right now, I'd be able to play. The one thing that we don't know for sure is how I'm going to bounce back the next day so that's something we'll find out until we actually start, but as of right now if there's a game going on tonight I'd be able to play.”
Alzner said his biggest challenge when he returns to game action could be a mental one.
“I'm just more nervous just to start in the first game back, whether it's exhibition or the start of the season—you just have a little bit of nerves because you want to feel good,” he said. “You want to make sure you're reacting good and playing good. My nerves come from that. From an injury, I'm not really nervous about it. We're doing everything that we can do in terms of rehab and strength, and that's good.”