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.