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Lars Eller is out and John Carlson is a game-time decision for Game 1

Lars Eller is out and John Carlson is a game-time decision for Game 1

The Capitals will begin their first-round series against the New York Islanders shorthanded, though we are not quite sure how much yet. The team will be without center Lars Eller for Wednesday's Game 1 against the New York Islanders, according to head coach Todd Reirden. Defenseman John Carlson will be a game-time decision.

Eller left the bubble on Aug. 5 to be with his family for the birth of a child. He returned on Sunday and remains in his room under quarantine until he receives four negative tests over the course of four days. That meant it was theoretically possible that he could be cleared before Wednesday's game, but Reirden put the matter to rest on Tuesday saying Eller would not be available for Game 1.

Travis Boyd has played in Eller's spot on the third line and is expected to remain there for Game 1.

“You feel comfortable with the player that knows our system, knows the detail that is expected, understands his role on the team," Reirden said of Boyd. "He is very versatile we can use him in a lot of different ways and he is going to get that opportunity [Wednesday]. He has made well on this opportunity thus far. I think he has played well in both of the games he has been a part of and now it is where does he go from here?"

On the back end, Carlson's status remains unknown.

After getting tangled up in the team's exhibition game, Carlson did not play in any of the team's round robin games. This was believed to be just a precaution to save Carlson for when the games really start to matter in the playoffs. For that reason and considering how important a player he is, I would expect him to play or otherwise the injury is much more serious than anyone realized.

Carlson skated in both Monday's optional skate and Tuesday's practice.

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Alan May predicts Capitals beat Islanders in 7, but John Carlson has to play

Alan May predicts Capitals beat Islanders in 7, but John Carlson has to play

The Capitals won't have an easy time once their first-round playoff series begins Wednesday against a physical, stout defensive team in the Islanders. 

After quickly disposing of the Panthers in two games to earn themselves a playoff spot, New York and former Capitals coach Barry Trotz will look to rough Washington up a bit to advance to the next stage. 

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May isn't taking the Islanders lightly, and in an appearance on the Sports Junkies, he gave his series prediction with an important caveat: the health of John Carlson. 

"I don't think they can get past the Islanders if there's no John Carlson in the lineup," May said. "He's [the Capitals] most important player as far all the skaters are concerned right now. If he doesn't play, everyone else has to play more and I don't think everyone else can necessarily handle playing more. I love the way [Orlov] plays, but if he plays too much he can get fatigued."

Carlson suffered an injury in the Capitals' only exhibition game against the Hurricanes and didn't appear in any of Washington's round-robin contests. In Carlson, the Caps were missing the league's leader in points for defensemen as well as one of their best skaters to anchor the defense in front of Braden Holtby. 

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His importance to the team's success can't be understated, which is why May believes the fate of the series may rest in his availability. 

"If the Caps have Carlson, they'll win the series," he said. "But if they play a soft brand of hockey it'll be a quick exit out of these playoffs. If they play rough and rugged, I like the Caps in about seven games."

If Carlson's healthy, he'll certainly help this team get to that "rough and rugged" style May wants to see out of them. 

RELATED: CARLSON 'MAKING STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION' IN RECOVERY

Especially against the Islanders, perhaps the best way to beat them is to play their style and not allow New York to control the flow of the game with their physicality. If the Caps are forced to lean heavily on their offense and can't penetrate the Islanders' defense, which tends to force teams to play on the perimeter more often, they'll be vulnerable. 

But if they can match New York's physicality and shut down any chances they may create, the Caps' talent on offense should find a way to power them through to the next round. Either way, May might be on to something in predicting a long series. 

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Capitals prepare for a Flyers team out to show the NHL they are more than just a hot streak

Capitals prepare for a Flyers team out to show the NHL they are more than just a hot streak

The Capitals are back in action for the second round robin game on Thursday as they take on the Philadelphia Flyers. Tune in to NBC Sports Washington for all the action starting with Caps Pregame Live at 3 p.m. Watch the game and stick with NBC Sports Washington afterward for Caps Postgame Live.

Here's everything you need to know for Caps-Flyers.

Standings update

Here are the current round robin standings:

Tampa Bay 4 points
Philadelphia Flyers 2 points
Capitals 1 point
Boston Bruins 0 points

Tampa Bay and Boston have both played two games. Washington and Philadelphia have played only one.

Everything is still on the table for the Caps. They can win the round robin but they will have to win on Thursday to keep those hopes alive. A regulation loss will mean Washington can finish no higher than third.

Carlson update: Proceed with caution

The Caps are still being cautious with defenseman John Carlson. Though he continues to practice, head coach Todd Reirden said Wednesday that the team would continue to evaluate his situation on a day by day basis so it is unclear if he will play on Thursday. Carlson did not play in Monday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning after getting tangled up in the team's lone exhibition game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The team continues to take a cautious approach with Carlson and that makes sense. It took about five minutes to realize the round robin games were nowhere close to the same intensity as the qualifying round games as none of the top four teams want to risk any injury in these games. Though there is no definitive answer as of yet on Carlson, it would not be surprising to see him sit out again, especially considering the Caps still managed to earn a point without him against Tampa Bay.

In addition to Carlson's possible absence, the team will also be without center Lars Eller who departed Toronto on Thursday to be with his family for the birth of his second child. Travis Boyd is expected to fill-in on the third line in Eller's place.

RELATED: LARS ELLER LEAVES NHL BUBBLE FOR BIRTH OF SECOND CHILD

Here's a projected lineup:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Travis Boyd - Ilya Kovalchuk
Richard Panik - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Brenden Dillon - Dmitry Orlov
Michal Kempny - Radko Gudas
Jonas Siegenthaler - Nick Jensen

Goalie matchup

The Caps will be going with Braden Holtby in net again after he stopped 26 out of 28 shots against the Lightning on Monday. Reirden was very non-committal when asked about Vitek Vanecek and it certainly does not sound as if there is any thought to getting him into Thursday's game.

The Flyers, on the other hand, will turn to goalie Brian Elliott over the young Carter Hart. This a break for Washington after the 21-year-old Hart was fantastic against the Boston Bruins in the team's first round robin matchup with 34 saves on 35 shots. In the regular season, Elliott managed a .903 save percentage and 2.76 GAA.

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When last we met

The Caps and Flyers last played on March 4 in an ugly 5-2 loss for Washington. In fact, if you combine the last two games, the Caps have been outscored 12-4 by Philadelpiha. This has been a tough matchup for the Caps this season as the Flyers are the only of the three round robin teams in which Washington has a losing record against this season (1-3-0).

Flyers are still rolling

When the NHL paused the season, Philadelphia had won nine of its last 10. The Flyers were just one point shy of the Caps in the Metropolitan Division standings and, based on how both teams were trending, it seems likely Philadelphia would have overtaken them for the division. If you expected the Flyers to cool off after nearly five months off, however, they showed in their first round robin game that is not going to be the case.

The Flyers rolled to a 4-1 win over the Bruins, the top team in the conference, and now take aim at the top seed in the conference. Clearly this team is not going to fade away with its win streak now well in the past. In just his first year behind the bench in Philadelphia, Alain Vigneault is getting the most out of his team and has already turned them into a contender in the East.

“I think the coaching change did a lot for them, but at the same time, all their young players developed, they got better and they are so good defensively too so I think that is what the coach brought in," Nicklas Backstrom said. "I think it is the combination of everything."

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