Capitals coach Barry Trotz says he tried to talk defenseman John Carlson into waiting until after the NHL All-Star break to return from a lower body injury, but it looks like the Caps’ top blue liner is going to try to make his return tonight at Verizon Center against the Philadelphia Flyers (8 p.,m., NBCSN).
“He said, ‘No, I’m pretty close,’” Trotz said of Carlson, who hasn’t played since blocking a shot against the Canadiens on Dec. 26. “I want to play and I don’t think I can do much to aggravate it. He’s anticipating (getting through) warmup and possibly jumping in there.”
Despite missing the past 12 games Carlson still leads all Caps defensemen in goals (6), assistss (21) and points (27). Only Matt Niaskanen (24:35) has averaged more ice time than Carlson (24:28).
“Any time you get a top guy like Carly (back in the lineup) you’re always anxious,” Trotz said. “He’s a big part of what we do.”
If Carlson returns to the lineup, Ryan Stanton is likely to be a healthy scratch. Carlson skated with Nate Schmidt on the Caps’ top/second pairing, with Niskanen alongside Karl Alzner (who is expected to set the Caps record with his 423rd consecutive game), and Dmitry Orlov alongside Taylor Chorney.
With the Caps leading the NHL in power play goals (38) and power play percentage (27.1), Niskanen is expected to remain on the Caps’ top power play unit, with Carlson manning the point on the second unit.
The Caps have gone 9-2-1 without Carlson in the lineup this season.
“The guys that have stepped in have done a fantastic job,” Trotz said. “(Carlson) is a big part of it. You realize how big the hole is when he’s not there.”
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