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Capitals' Karl Alzner ruled out for Game 4 against Maple Leafs

Capitals' Karl Alzner ruled out for Game 4 against Maple Leafs

TORONTO— Karl Alzner will miss his second straight playoff game on Wednesday night, Caps Coach Barry Trotz said.

Alzner missed his first game in seven years on Monday due to an upper body injury. He is listed as day-to-day by the team.

“He is out right now and he won’t play tomorrow,” Trotz said following an optional practice at the Maple Leafs’ facility. 

Trotz did not elaborate on the veteran defenseman’s prognosis. The first sign that anything was amiss came Monday morning when Alzner was held out of the morning skate by the team's training staff.

Alzner was replaced in the lineup by Nate Schmidt, who was paired with John Carlson.

Schmidt played 16:29 and earned a primary assist on Washington’s first goal in Monday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs.

He's expected to remain in the lineup when the Caps visit the Leafs for Game 4 at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night. Toronto leads the series 2-1. 

MORE CAPS: Holtby leaves cage to make incredible save

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Capitals bolster their blue line by adding right-shot Nick Jensen in trade with Red Wings

Capitals bolster their blue line by adding right-shot Nick Jensen in trade with Red Wings

Just one day after adding Carl Hagelin to the roster, the Capitals remained busy by acquiring right-shot defenseman Nick Jensen and a fifth-round draft pick from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Madison Bowey and a second-round draft pick in 2020.

Once the trade was made official, the Caps were quick to lock up their new acquisition, re-signing Jensen to a four-year, $10 million contract, according to Isabelle Khurshudyan.

The fifth round pick the Caps receive was originally from the Buffalo Sabres. Darren Dreger was the first to report the trade. 

Brian MacLellan has added at least one defenseman at the trade deadline every year as the Caps’ general manager and this year is now no different. After the home run acquisition of Michal Kempny for cheap last season, the Caps again went for another depth move, though the cost for Jensen proved to be substantially steeper.

Jensen, 28, is a very stout defensive player and a strong skater. He does not add much offensively (two goals, 13 assists in 60 games), but the fact that he is a right-shot defenseman is of huge value.

Prior to the trade, John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Madison Bowey were the only right-handed players among the team’s eight defensemen (including Jonas Siegenthaler, though he is in Hershey). Bowey had seemingly fallen down the depth chart this season and has played in only 33 games.

Jensen does not just add right-shot depth, he adds options.

Jensen is primarily a third-pair defenseman and is likely to play alongside Brooks Orpik, but, given the struggles of the second pair this season and Niskanen in particular, having Jensen could ease some of the pressure on that pair. Jensen is not going to supplant Niskanen in the top-four, but he can play on the penalty kill and be leaned upon to play significant minutes. He averaged 20:48 of ice time with the Red Wings.

If MacLellan was looking for a low-risk, high reward addition, Jensen seems to fit the bill. It doesn’t get much cheaper than Jensen’s total cap hit of $812,500. On the final year of his contract, however, Jensen could prove to be a rental. That makes the steep price Washington had to pay sting just a bit, but adding a right-shot defenseman who can be relied upon to play consistently on the third pair is a value add.


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Columbus goes all-in on a playoff run, acquires Matt Duchene in first major trade of the deadline

Columbus goes all-in on a playoff run, acquires Matt Duchene in first major trade of the deadline

The Columbus Blue Jackets had a tough choice to make at the NHL trade deadline. It appears they made that decision Friday with a big-time trade for forward Matt Duchene.

Columbus acquired Duchene and prospect Julius Bergman from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for prospects Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson, a lotter-protected first round pick in 2019 and a conditional first-round pick in 2020. If Columbus does not get a top-three draft pick and if Duchene re-signs with the Blue Jackets, this deal will end up netting Ottawa two first round picks.

To add to the drama, Duchene is expected to be in the lineup for the Blue Jackets on Friday when they play…the Senators.

With Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky both on the last year of their contracts and unlikely to re-sign, the Blue Jackets faced a decision over whether they should keep their top two players and go all-in for a Stanley Cup run, or if they should trade them to collect what they can and not risk losing them for nothing in the offseason.

Clearly, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has chosen to do the former.

Duchene has 27 goals and 58 points this season and looks well on his way to a career year. He is a top forward and his addition gives Columbus a formidable offense. This most likely shuts the door on any possible Panarin/Bobrovsky trade. They simply paid too steep a price to get Duchene just to turn around and trade away two of its top players.

But does it make sense for a team that has never won a playoff series in franchise history to risk losing two superstar players for nothing just for one more run? Run at what? Can a team really go from zero playoff success to a Cup contender with one trade?

That seems doubtful, but the Blue Jackets did themselves no favors by sitting on their hands in the offseason after it became clear both Panarin and Bobrovsky were likely on their way out. Now in the thick of the playoff race, Columbus was unwilling to throw in the towel, but also unlikely to go very far in the postseason without doing something.

The Blue Jackets currently sit one point out of a wild card spot with 69 points. The Metropolitan Division standings, however, are very crowded and Columbus has two games in hand over the Carolina Hurricanes (70 Points), Pittsburgh Penguins (71 points) and the Capitals (75 points).

At the very least, the Blue Jackets are going to make some noise in the division standings and look poised to make a real push at a top-three spot. That could very well mean a Caps-Blue Jackets rematch in the postseason.

But at what cost? The worst-case scenario is that they could miss the playoffs or lose in the first round yet again and then lose Panarin, Bobrovsky, Duchene and be left without a first round pick in the draft. The best-case scenario obviously is going all the way to win the Cup, but even with the acquisition of Duchene, how likely a scenario is that really with a team that has never won a series, a goalie under chronically underperforms in the playoffs and a team that could quite possibly end up playing a juggernaut Tampa Bay Lightning team in the first round?

Realistically, the acquisition of Duchene will be enough to get Columbus into the playoffs and it may be enough to even get them their first series win. Looking back on the trade, however, will one series win be enough to justify the huge step back this team is now poised to make in the offseason? That seems unlikely.