Karl Alzner on Tuesday handled his heaviest practice workload since getting hurt, but it remains unclear when the Caps’ defenseman will return to the lineup.
Alzner has been sidelined with an upper body injury since Game 2 against Toronto.
“He’s progressing [and is] day-to-day,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “When the trainers say, 'Go', then he’ll go.”
Alzner took part in contact drills, including penalty kill, signaling the next step in his recovery.
Asked if he anticipates Alzner stepping back into the lineup when he’s healthy, Trotz said: “Possibly. We’re not there yet so I’m gonna be vague to you.”
Alzner said he felt good after the hour-long practice. Asked if he expects to play right away, he said: “I think so, yeah. I didn’t really think about that...I hope so.”
Alzner, who has appeared in 540 consecutive regular season games, acknowledged that it’s been frustrating to be sidelined given what’s at stake.
“Yeah, not fun,” he said. “It’s very, very frustrating, especially at this point of the year. You can handle it a little more in the regular season, but to watch the guys go to battle and to have the feeling of beating a team, it’s unfortunate to miss that. At the same time, I know that in the long run, it’s the best thing for the team [and] clearly was the right choice.”
Alzner has been replaced in the lineup by Nate Schmidt, who has played well the past four games. In addition to being reliable in his own end, he’s registered a pair of assists. He’s also a team-best +5.
If and when Alzner is healthy, it’s going to force Trotz and Co. to make a difficult decision. Do you take out Schmidt? Someone else? Or go with seven defensemen?
“He’s done that,” Trotz said about Schmidt putting the coaches in a tough spot. “He’s come in and he’s done a really good job. He’s such a good skater. We played a quick team and he fit in just perfectly with us. I thought he was making a statement, ‘Hey I'm gonna make it tough to take me out of the lineup.”