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John Carlson's status for Game 1 remains TBD

John Carlson's status for Game 1 remains TBD

John Carlson joined the Caps for their first practice of the postseason, but the veteran D-man’s status for Game 1 vs. Toronto remains TBD.

Carlson missed the final four games of the regular season with a lower body injury. On Tuesday, he started practice as an extra, paired with the seldom-used Taylor Chorney.

After initially saying “well see” when asked about Carlson’s availability, Coach Barry Trotz said, “he'll probably be a go.”

Carlson sounded a bit more cautious about his chances of suiting up Thursday.

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“Pretty good,” he said asked how he felt, before adding: “...I’m just taking it day-by-day and getting better.”

Although the Caps are 7-2-1 without Carlson in the lineup this season, he’s a big part of what they do. He leads the team in average ice time (22:42), plays on both special teams units, and his nine goals are the most for a Washington defenseman not named Kevin Shattenkirk, who was acquired at the tade deadline.

During Tuesday’s practice, Nate Schmidt remained in Carlson’s usual spot alongside Karl Alzner during even strength work. Carlson, though, did skate with the second power play unit.

If Carlson is not ready to go against the Leafs, Schmidt figures to be his replacement. Schmidt was solid in Carlson's absence and even chipped in with a goal and a secondary assist. 

“Yeah, he's done a really good job,” Trotz said of No. 88. “A lot of confidence in Nate. He's played very well [and has done] a really good job filling in for Carlson.”

Also returning for the Caps on Tuesday was winger Brett Connolly, who missed the final two games of the regular season with an illness.

Unlike Carlson, Connolly returned to his normal spot, joining linemates Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky on the third forward combo—almost assuredly a sign that Connolly will play Thursday.

MORE CAPITALS: Wilson has roots in Toronto, but 'they're public enemy No. 1 right now'

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.