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John Carlson is trying not to think about his contract...but he is

John Carlson is trying not to think about his contract...but he is

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson this season. There is always uncertainty when a player enters a contract year, but now add in the fact that Carlson has spent training camp not knowing who is partner is going to be.

That’s a problem considering how important this season is for Carlson plus how much the Caps will rely on him.

“Oh yeah,” Carlson said Tuesday when asked if he had thought about his contract, “But I'm not really going to think too much into that. The season hasn't even started yet.”

By now you have probably heard about how the Capitals’ roster is going to take a step back this season. With salary cap constraints due to the fact that the team had to re-sign several young players to bigger contracts plus the Vegas expansion draft, Washington saw a lot of key players depart in the offseason.

RELATED: WHAT DOES WEDNESDAY'S LINEUP TELL US ABOUT THE CAPS' ROSTER?

While the loss of Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson hurts the offense, the real effect of the offseason’s losses can be seen on the defense.

Here is what the Capitals defensive pairs looked like heading into training camp:

Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
??? - John Carlson
Brooks Orpik - ???
Taylor Chorney

While there are a handful of promising prospects competing for those open spots, the problem is the second pair. There is a hole in the team’s top four and the Capitals don’t have a clear top-four defenseman to plug it with. Whoever does play there, whether it be a depth veteran like Chorney or a rookie like Bowey, that player is going to lean very heavily on Carlson.

“[Carlson’s] a good enough player to adjust to whoever his partner is,” head coach Barry Trotz said on Tuesday after practice, “And I think he's mature enough to bring his partner along too no matter who he's playing with, if he's a stay at home guy or a puck-moving, advanced guy who gets up the ice and doesn't have maybe as much in his game in order like [Dmitry Orlov] was a few years ago. We'll see where that plays, but Carly's a good defenseman and whoever we put him with he should be a real good pair for us.”

So in a contract year, Carlson will be relied upon to carry the second defensive pair with a partner he does not know yet. That is a lot for one player to deal with, but not totally unexpected.

“We talked about possibilities for him in the summer and we'll play it out,” Trotz said. “But he understands the situation. ... I think he understood where we are as a team, organization, the cap situation this summer.”

Carlson said he is not worried about who his partner might be and is instead focusing on on his own game instead.

“I think it just kind of makes you focus more on what you can't control versus what you can. We've got a lot of talented players. If there wasn't those talented players than maybe I'd have a different opinion, but just one of those things you'll wait and see and wait to hear what it will be.”

For now, Aaron Ness looks like the frontrunner to earn the spot on the second pair playing next to Carlson. The two have practiced together as a pair at practice both on Monday and Tuesday.

Carlson stressed that it is hard to get a feel for a defensive pairing from practice and that the coaches were unlikely to consult with him about it saying, “It's never been really like that. I'm sure they might ask for an opinion here or there, but other than that I don't make any decisions. That's all what they think is best for the team and that's their job.”

Even so, he was effusive in his praise of Ness.

“He's a great player,” Carlson said. “I've been saying that for however long he's been here.”

Regardless of who he plays with, the team needs this to be a big season for Carlson and so does he. A new contract is on the line.

MORE CAPITALS: BARRY TROTZ DECLARES HE WILL SUPPORT HIS PLAYERS IF THEY PROTEST THE ANTHEM

Check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast!

Like what you hear? Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and wherever podcasts are available. Have a question you want answered on the podcast? Send us your questions to CapitalsFaceoff@gmail.com. Maybe we'll even read it on the air.

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Game 32: Capitals vs. Avalanche Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 32: Capitals vs. Avalanche Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Colorado Avalanche

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Avalanche will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Avalanche game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-AVALANCHE GAME?

The Capitals (18-12-1) take on the Avalanche (14-13-2) Tuesday, December 12 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-AVALANCHE GAME ON?

The Capitals-Avalanche game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Capitals GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington following the game for Caps Extra, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Avalanche
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-AVALANCHE GAME?

The Capitals-Avalanche game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR CAPITALS-AVALANCHE?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Alex Chiasson
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Christian Djoos - Madison Bowey

Goalies
Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup.

Scratches: T.J. Oshie (upper-body injury), Taylor Chorney

CAPITALS-AVALANCHE OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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4 reasons the Caps lost to the Islanders

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4 reasons the Caps lost to the Islanders

A red-hot Capitals team traveled to Brooklyn where they were handed a 3-1 loss by the New York Islanders. Washington gave up an early goal in the first period and two early goals in the second that ultimately put the game out of reach.

Here is how it happened.

The first 94 seconds of the second period

The Caps trailed 1-0 at the end of the first and seemed fortunate to be down by only one. That luck ran out very quickly in the second period. Andrew Ladd scored just 36 seconds into the period and John Tavares added another just 58 seconds later. A 1-0 deficit turned into a 3-0 deficit in just 94 seconds.

Defensive breakdowns

Braden Holtby was pulled in the second period after giving up three goals, but if is hard to put this loss on Holtby's shoulders. He did not get much help at all from the defense as the Caps were frequently caught out of position by the Islanders. Watch how little movement there is from the players in white on this play.

Josh Bailey found himself in the middle of four Caps players, none challenged him and, even worse, no one covered John Tavares. It was an easy pass for Bailey and an easy goal for Tavares.

No sustained offensive pressure

The Islanders entered the game ranked 29th in goals against per game, yet the Caps could not take advantage. Washington fired 32 shots on goal, but could not create much sustained offensive pressure. There were not many cycles, not many won puck battles in the corners, not many second-chance opportunities, not many opportunities at all. Even the Caps' lone goal came from an end-to-end drive that Dmitry Orlov fired into the net.

Jaroslav Halak

While the Caps did not have many high-quality opportunities, the few they did have Jaroslav Halak was able to turn aside and he made it look easy. Halak has not had a great season, but you would not have known it given the way he played on Monday. He looked very comfortable in net, even when the Caps did manage to pressure him and recorded 31 saves on the night.