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Is Carlson biggest winner in Caps' lost weekend?


Is Carlson biggest winner in Caps' lost weekend?

Three feet of snow and hours of shoveling may have felt like a curse for the rest of us, but for injured Capitals defenseman John Carlson, it may have been a blessing.

With Blizzard Jonas wiping out Friday night’s home game against the Anaheim Ducks and Sunday afternoon’s home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Carlson was given three extra days for his lower body injury to heal.

Carlson is expected back on the ice at Kettler today at 10:30 when the Capitals resume practice (enter through Ballston Mall, 8th floor parking lot is closed). With another practice slated for Tuesday, it’s entirely possible Carlson could be cleared to play in Wednesday night’s 8 p.m. game against the Flyers at Verizon Center.

But with another four days off for NHL All-Star Weekend, might the Caps let Carlson wait until Feb. 2 for his return?

Carlson had played in 412 consecutive games before a blocked shot against the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 28 ended his pursuit of the club record of 422 straight games. That record, set by Bobby Carpenter in 1986, is expected to be eclipsed by Caps defenseman Karl Alzner on Wednesday night.

Carlson said the first serious injury of his NHL career – he has missed the last 12 games -- has tested his patience.


“Just not being able to compete,” Carlson said when asked what he missed most during his absence. “You look around and you see all your teammates with their routines. You miss that fire before the game. Even being able to practice with the guys (on Thursday) is awesome because you lose touch with the guys.”

During Carlson’s absence the Caps have gone 9-2-1, thanks to the solid play of defensemen Matt Niskanen, Alzner, Nate Schmidt, Dmitry Orlov, Taylor Chorney, Aaron Ness and Ryan Stanton. Stanton, who was recalled by the Caps last week, had a rough night in Columbus in his first game with the Capitals, getting caught on an offensive zone pinch on the Blue Jackets’ first goal and taking a holding penalty that led to their second in a 6-3 Caps win.

“There were areas of really good play and areas of play I thought he could be better,” Trotz said of Stanton, who has 120 games of NHL experience with the Canucks, Blackhawks and Caps.

“It’s an adjustment for him. He’s used to playing 22, 25 minutes in Hershey and you get dropped down when you come up here. I think he’ll be fine. He’s got a lot of time in the league.”

Once Carlson is cleared for game action the Caps likely will reunite him with Nate Schmidt on the top unit, leaving a third pairing of Taylor Chorney and Dmitry Orlov.

Chorney, considered the club’s seventh defenseman at the start of the season, has been one of the Caps’ most consistent blue liners this season with five assists and a plus-13 rating in 37 games, while Orlov has four goals, 13 assists and is a plus-9 through 46 games.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.


Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.