NASHVILLE—After 13 games on the sidelines, Matt Niskanen will return to the Capitals’ lineup against the Predators on Tuesday night.
Niskanen, who suffered an upper body injury against the Devils on Oct. 13, rejoined his teammates for practice on Nov. 9. In recent days, the veteran blue liner had ramped up his level of participation, progressing from non-contact drills to full-go in Saturday's practice and Sunday's morning skate.
During Tuesday's morning skate at Bridgestone Arena, Niskanen was paired with familiar partner Dmitry Orlov. Christian Djoos was paired with John Carlson, meantime, and Brooks Orpik skated with Madison Bowey on the other tandem. That left Taylor Chorney and Aaron Ness as the odd Dmen out.
“I’m excited to get back in there tonight and see what I can do,” Niskanen said. “Anytime you miss some time—even after the All-Star break—or anything like, it sounds cliché, but simple is effective.”
Niskanen’s return will eventually mean less ice time for John Carlson, who leads the NHL at 27:20 per game. How quickly Barry Trotz and associate coach Todd Reirden are able to reduce some of that heavy load on Carlson, though, depends on how quickly Niskanen gets up to speed. Niskanen has said that his conditioning is good but his timing that has lagged a bit behind.
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) November 14, 2017
As for Carlson, he said he’s prepared to do whatever the coaches need in terms of role and/or ice time. That said, he’s as excited as everyone else to welcome Niskanen back into the fold, particularly as the Caps face a red-hot Predators' team that has won four straight games.