Head coach Barry Trotz has not been shy about shuffling his lineup...at least on offense. Aside from the occasional Taylor Chorney appearance, the defensive pairings have remained the same all season. That changed towards the end of Monday's game against Buffalo and it appears those new pairs will stick on Wednesday.
That, of course, means the return of 'Carlzner.'
"I don't think any of us care who we play with, but me and [John Carlson] had some pretty good years together," Karl Alzner said. "We've had a lot of good chemistry and a lot of fun playing together too. I think it'll be exciting just to give it another shot."
As the Caps host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, Carlson and Alzner will reunite as a defensive pair. Both players came into the NHL at about the same time and spent several seasons playing alongside one another before the additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik dramatically shifted the team's blue line.
Alzner began the season playing alongside Niskanen in what became an effective shutdown pair. A pair of Carlson and Dmitry Orlov, however, two of the more offensively skilled defensemen on the team, has struggled.
Carlson remains in search of his first goal of the season while Orlov is stuck on one. In an attempt to find a better compliment to their offensive skills, Trotz moved Orlov up with Niskanen and brought Alzner down to play with his former partner, thus reuniting the fan-favorite pairing.
"I think they're a good compliment," Trotz said. "I think [Alzner] is a good two-way defenseman, but his strength is probably little more, if you have to classify him, is a little more stay at home where Carly can do both, but he obviously gets up on the play and adds to the offense. We'll see how that works."
Despite playing with Niskanen for the first 24 games of the season, Alzner is not expecting it will take much to adjust to playing with Carlson again.
"We know what the plays are at all times and we all do them the same way," he said. "The only thing I'd say is just remembering the voice that you're listening for because that can be a little bit tricky. Certain guys kind of walk the line different and get themselves available in different ways and [Carlson's] definitely different that [Niskanen] in that sense.
"We've already kind of figured that out in practice. It doesn't take long."
Despite the Caps' recent struggles, Washington has played well defensively. The team currently ranks fifth in goals against per game (2.21) and sixth in shots against per game (28.2).
The decision to bring back the famed 'Carlzner' pair, however, seems to have less to do with the defense than it does with adding a spark to a team trying to get back on track after losing three of its last four.
Said Alzner, "We're all interested in just injecting some life into everything: The game right now, offensively, trying to score some more goals. If we could help each other do that, [Niskanen] and [Orlov] can help each other do that, then good."
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