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Carlson 'doubtful' for Friday's game against Ducks

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Carlson 'doubtful' for Friday's game against Ducks

Sidelined since Dec. 26 with a lower body injury, Capitals defenseman John Carlson was back practicing with the team at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Thursday, a sure sign he’s getting close to a return.

Carlson, 26, has missed the past 12 games while recovering from his injury. The Caps have gone 9-2-1 during his absence. They face the Anaheim Ducks Friday night at Verizon Center.

"I'd probably say he's more doubtful than probable," Caps coach Barry Trotz said. "We'll see where he is tomorrow. It's a good step. He's on the ice with us for the first time."

It’s unclear whether Carlson will need more practice time with the team before appearing in a game. He skated with the club in Columbus earlier this week and has been skating on his own since Jan. 4.

Carlson said keeping pace at practice is a lot more difficult than skating on his own and he missed the camaraderie of his teammates, adding he'll be back in game action "as soon as I can."

"You miss that fire before the game," he said. "Even just practicing with the guys is awesome. It feels a little bit different when you're on the outside, when you're skating at different times or when they're in meetings and you have to do something else."

When Carlson returns, look for him to be reunited with Nate Schmidt, who has been paired with Dmitry Orlov during Carlson’s absence. Schmidt has one goal and four assists and is a plus-8 while Carlson has been out of the lineup.

If Carlson and Schmidt are reunited, Orlov and Taylor Chorney would make up the Caps’ third defense pairing.

Before practice on Thursday, defenseman Brooks Orpik (lower body) and center Jay Beagle (hand) skated on their own. Orpik is not expected to return until after the NHL All-Star Break next weekend, while Beagle is expected to return in mid-February. 

[RELATED: Backstrom, Holtby selected to NHL All-Star Game]

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Panthers escaped with a 3-2 victory on an emotional night in Sunrise, Fla.

Trocheck’s goal was Florida’s second in the final four minutes…and the Caps were left to lament yet another incomplete performance. Washington has now lost three of its last four games and fell to 4-5-2 in February.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Vincent Trocheck, Panthers

Trocheck did what Trocheck does in the third period: The Florida forward scored a clutch goal in the final seconds, redirecting a Jonathan Huberdeau shot through Brooks Orpik’s legs and past Braden Holtby.

Eller was in the penalty box when Trocheck scored his 13th third period goal of the season.

2-Andre Burakovsky, Capitals

After losing a goal to Eller in the first period, Burakovsky made sure he didn’t go home empty-handed. No. 65 scored on the power play in the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1.

It was Burakovsky’s third goal in six games. He also earned a secondary assist on Eller’s redirection score.   

3-Braden Holtby, Capitals

Following a handful of un-Holtby-like performances lately, Holtbeast roared Thursday night at BB&T Center. He made at least one game-saving stop in each period: an arm save on Trocheck in the first period; a pad stop on Denis Malgin in the second and another extended pad stop on Evgenii Dadonov in the third. Holtby finished with 30 stops.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.