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John Carlson's status for Game 1 remains TBD

John Carlson's status for Game 1 remains TBD

John Carlson joined the Caps for their first practice of the postseason, but the veteran D-man’s status for Game 1 vs. Toronto remains TBD.

Carlson missed the final four games of the regular season with a lower body injury. On Tuesday, he started practice as an extra, paired with the seldom-used Taylor Chorney.

After initially saying “well see” when asked about Carlson’s availability, Coach Barry Trotz said, “he'll probably be a go.”

Carlson sounded a bit more cautious about his chances of suiting up Thursday.

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“Pretty good,” he said asked how he felt, before adding: “...I’m just taking it day-by-day and getting better.”

Although the Caps are 7-2-1 without Carlson in the lineup this season, he’s a big part of what they do. He leads the team in average ice time (22:42), plays on both special teams units, and his nine goals are the most for a Washington defenseman not named Kevin Shattenkirk, who was acquired at the tade deadline.

During Tuesday’s practice, Nate Schmidt remained in Carlson’s usual spot alongside Karl Alzner during even strength work. Carlson, though, did skate with the second power play unit.

If Carlson is not ready to go against the Leafs, Schmidt figures to be his replacement. Schmidt was solid in Carlson's absence and even chipped in with a goal and a secondary assist. 

“Yeah, he's done a really good job,” Trotz said of No. 88. “A lot of confidence in Nate. He's played very well [and has done] a really good job filling in for Carlson.”

Also returning for the Caps on Tuesday was winger Brett Connolly, who missed the final two games of the regular season with an illness.

Unlike Carlson, Connolly returned to his normal spot, joining linemates Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky on the third forward combo—almost assuredly a sign that Connolly will play Thursday.

MORE CAPITALS: Wilson has roots in Toronto, but 'they're public enemy No. 1 right now'

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Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

The Capitals found out who their opponent will be for the home opener on Oct. 3 and it's not the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And you know what? That's OK. Winning the Stanley Cup was awesome and the banner raising will be an incredible scene regardless. 

Plus, the Penguins need that night off because they have to get ready for their own home opener on Oct. 4 against...the Caps?

Wait, what?

In 2016, the Capitals were in attendance as the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner. That had to sting considering Pittsburgh eliminated Washington in the playoffs.

It has not become a tradition to make rivals watch as teams raise banners and there's nothing that said the NHL had to schedule the Penguins for Washington's home opener. But it does seem odd that the NHL is going to make the defending Stanley Cup champions play a back-to-back right out of the gate with the second end coming against their archrivals in Pittsburgh.

Hey Caps, it's the NHL here. Congrats again. Vegas is a hell of a city, am I right? So, listen...we thought about it and decided you won't get to raise your banner against your rivals. Sorry about that. We tried and we couldn't get them for your first game. Good news though, we moved it all the way up to the second game, we just couldn't get it any sooner than that. You'll be playing them the second game of the season...the night after your home opener...in Pittsburgh...for their home opener. Anyway, good luck on the repeat.

Makes sense.

Look, if Washington can't have Pittsburgh for the home opener fine. It would have been nice, but it's really not a big deal. Raising the banner will be special regardless of who the opponent will be. But don't turn around and make the Caps play in the Penguins' home opener the very next day.

The schedule makers did the Caps no favors with this one.

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Date for Capitals home opener, banner raising announced and it's not against the Pittsburgh Penguins

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USA TODAY Sports

Date for Capitals home opener, banner raising announced and it's not against the Pittsburgh Penguins

Just before the Caps turn the page on their Stanley Cup championship season and open a new campaign, they will raise a championship banner to the rafters of Capital One Arena in the home opener. We now have a date for that banner raising.

The Capitals' home opener will be on Oct. 3, but if you were hoping Washington would raise the banner against the Pittsburgh Penguins, you're going to be disappointed.

Instead, the Boston Bruins will be the Caps' first opponent at Capital One Arena for the 2018-19 season.

The Capitals opened the 2016-17 season in Pittsburgh when the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner from 2016. That was rubbing salt in the wound as not only are the Penguins Washington's biggest rival, they also eliminated the Caps in the second round of the 2016 playoffs en route to winning the Stanley Cup.

The fact that the Caps had to endure that banner raising led to speculation that the NHL schedule makers would perhaps return the favor and bring the Penguins to Washington as the Caps prepare to raise their first championship banner.

Alas, that was not the case. It's totally understandable though. The Penguins need that night off so they can prepare for their home opener on Oct. 4...against the Capitals.

It is not typical that the NHL forces teams to play their rivals in a home opener during a banner raising ceremony and it should be noted that the Caps were not in Pittsburgh for the Penguins' 2017 home opener after Pittsburgh's second straight Stanley Cup. The 2016-17 season appears to be little more than a coincidence.

Still, having the Caps play in Pittsburgh the very next night seems like an odd quirk.

Seeing the Caps raise the Stanley Cup banner on Oct. 3 will be no less sweet without the Penguins in attendance. But it would have been nice.

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