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.
“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.