Carlson does light skate, ruled out through late February

Capitals defenseman John Carlson

ARLINGTON, Va. — Just over a month after taking a puck to the head in a game against the Winnipeg Jets, Capitals defenseman John Carlson participated in a light skate ahead of the team’s optional practice Friday morning for the first time since his injury.

Carlson wasn’t wearing a team jersey and didn’t complete a full skating session. He will conduct low-level exercises before being reevaluated in late February to determine next steps. As a result, the Capitals will be without their star defenseman for at least another month.

Washington originally ruled Carlson out indefinitely after he was struck in the right side of the face during the third period of its Dec. 23 victory over Winnipeg. He was transported to the hospital for precautionary evaluation and discharged the following day.

The Capitals placed Carlson on Long-Term Injured Reserve in early January to clear the salary cap space needed to activate Nicklas Backstrom. Carlson’s timeline of being reevaluated next month will give the Capitals some clarity on his health situation just before the March 3 trade deadline, which could play a role in how the front office approaches bolstering the roster.

Should he return before the playoffs, the Capitals will have to clear cap space before they can add him back to the 23-man roster. However, if he needs more time and can’t make it back before the end of the regular season, NHL rules allow teams to exceed the cap once the postseason begins.


In the meantime, the Capitals must weather the absence of one of their team leaders and most reliable players. Carlson’s absence has been particularly felt on the power play, which had been struggling mightily of late before breaking through with a goal in Thursday’s win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.