Sidelined since Dec. 26 with a lower body injury, Capitals defenseman John Carlson was back practicing with the team at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Thursday, a sure sign he’s getting close to a return.
Carlson, 26, has missed the past 12 games while recovering from his injury. The Caps have gone 9-2-1 during his absence. They face the Anaheim Ducks Friday night at Verizon Center.
"I'd probably say he's more doubtful than probable," Caps coach Barry Trotz said. "We'll see where he is tomorrow. It's a good step. He's on the ice with us for the first time."
It’s unclear whether Carlson will need more practice time with the team before appearing in a game. He skated with the club in Columbus earlier this week and has been skating on his own since Jan. 4.
Carlson said keeping pace at practice is a lot more difficult than skating on his own and he missed the camaraderie of his teammates, adding he'll be back in game action "as soon as I can."
"You miss that fire before the game," he said. "Even just practicing with the guys is awesome. It feels a little bit different when you're on the outside, when you're skating at different times or when they're in meetings and you have to do something else."
When Carlson returns, look for him to be reunited with Nate Schmidt, who has been paired with Dmitry Orlov during Carlson’s absence. Schmidt has one goal and four assists and is a plus-8 while Carlson has been out of the lineup.
If Carlson and Schmidt are reunited, Orlov and Taylor Chorney would make up the Caps’ third defense pairing.
Before practice on Thursday, defenseman Brooks Orpik (lower body) and center Jay Beagle (hand) skated on their own. Orpik is not expected to return until after the NHL All-Star Break next weekend, while Beagle is expected to return in mid-February.