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Trotz hopes tough competition will prepare Caps for playoffs

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Trotz hopes tough competition will prepare Caps for playoffs

ARLINGTON, Va. -- With the season almost halfway done, the Caps have established themselves as one of the teams to beat.

As of Saturday morning, Washington sits atop the Eastern Conference standings by an incredible eight points. That means the Caps should expect to face the best effort from every team they face every night and Barry Trotz is OK with that.

"You have to be consistent or you're going to get your butt handed to you," Trotz said. "It's plain and simple."

Saturday's game pits two teams going in opposite directions against one another. The Caps enter as the winners of six-straight while Montreal is desperately missing star netminder Carey Price and has lost their last five.

Trotz, however, was adamant that the Canadiens would be at their best despite the way both teams were trending and told the team to expect the same Montreal team that dominated them in Montreal on Dec. 3, a game in which the Caps only won thanks to Braden Holtby's heroics.

"We didn't have one of our better games," Trotz said. "We ended up winning, but we didn't feel like we won the game." 

For a Caps team that hasn't made it past the second round of the playoffs since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998, Trotz believes there is a real benefit to facing the best effort from every opponent.

"It's teaching us to be consistently on our game and be consistent in terms of our approach to every game," Trotz said. "Those are some of the benefits you get. It prepares you for the next level of hockey and that's hopefully the playoffs."

RELATED: Five things to watch with Capitals

Morning skate notes:

Another non-update update on Brooks Orpik: The only player not on the ice for Saturday's morning skate was Brooks Orpik who continues to deal with a lower-body injury. When asked about the defenseman's status, Trotz said, "He's getting better everyday. He's not going to get on the ice until he's 100 percent so there's no timetable. Until he's 100 percent you will not see him on the ice."

Carrick recalled again: With Orpik out, the Caps are again down to six defensemen, prompting the team to recall Connor Carrick from the AHL. Carrick was on the ice Saturday morning.

Lines at morning skate:

Ovechkin - Backstrom - Oshie

Johansson - Kuznetsov - Williams

Chimera - Beagle - Wilson

Laich - Latta - Burakovsky

Galiev

Schmidt - Carlson

Alzner - Niskanen

Orlov - Chorney

Carrick

Holtby - Grubauer

MORE CAPITALS: Prospect Report: A rough week for Liam O'Brien

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

The last time the Washington Capitals had a first-round draft pick, they selected a WHL defenseman. They did not go off script on Friday.

With the last pick of the first round, selecting for the first time as defending Stanley Cup champions, the Capitals selected Alexander Alexeyev, a left-shooting, two-way defenseman from St. Petersburg.

Alexeyev, 18, certainly boasts NHL size at 6' 4", 196 pounds. He currently plays for Red Deer in the WHL, a junior league that has become a major pipeline for the Capitals. In his second season with Red Deer, he tallied 37 points in 45 games.

The NHL Central Scouting's rankings list Alexeyev as the 22nd best North American skater of the draft. TSN projects him to be a top-four, two-way defenseman.

Analyst Craig Button described Alexeyev as a "Smart, effective defenceman who moves the puck, plays with a calm and doesn't make things complicated for himself."

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