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Trotz provides injury update on Alzner, Johansson

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Trotz provides injury update on Alzner, Johansson

Karl Alzner’s iron man streak of 401 games is still alive.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz confirmed Tuesday that the 27-year-old defenseman will be in the lineup tonight against the Detroit Red Wings (7:30, NBCSN) after missing Monday’s practice with an upper-body injury.

Left wing Marcus Johansson, who sat out Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss in Winnipeg with a lower body injury, also is expected to play. He practiced Tuesday on a line with center Evgeny Kuznetsov and right wing Justin Williams.

“With Marcus I was just concerned he didn’t skate (on Monday) but he immediately said he was fine,” Trotz said.

Alzner has played in every Caps game since sitting out the 2009-10 regular season finale on April 11, 2000. Tonight will mark his 402nd straight game, two behind defenseman John Carlson, who has played in 403 consecutive games.

Trotz said those are impressive streaks for a pair of defensemen who play big minutes against some of the NHL’s top forwards.

“When you play that many minutes, something’s going to go wrong or someone’s going to chop you or you get hit with a puck blocking a shot, or just an illness,” Trotz said. “From that standpoint, it’s pretty impressive for this day and age because the game is played pretty fast, especially for a defenseman. They’re going back to retrieve pucks and they’re the ones who take a lot of the hits.”

Trotz said that with Brooks Orpik still ailing with a lower body injury, the Caps will keep defenseman Aaron Ness on the roster for at least a few more games.

Orpik will miss his 12th consecutive game tonight with a lower body injury and was not on the ice on Tuesday. It’s possible the team will keep Orpik off the ice for a while to see how his injury responds.

“We’re sort of re-evaluating everything we’ve done so far to see if the plan stays the same or they alter it a little bit,” Trotz said. “They altered it a little bit today based on him not skating, trying to see if they can get it to settle down.”

Dads in town: The Caps will make their annual dads’ trip this week, with players’ fathers and mentors attending tonight’s game, Wednesday’s practice at Kettler and the team’s visits to Sunrise, Fla. for Thursday night’s game against the Panthers and Tampa for Saturday night’s game against the Lightning.

Trotz said he likes to play each player on his roster during the dads trip, adding that goaltender Philipp Grubauer is scheduled to make  one of the starts against the Panthers or Lightning.    

Here is how the Capitals practiced Tuesday and their projected lineup for tonight:

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams

Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich – Michael Latta – Andre Burakovsky

Extras: Stan Galiev, Chris Brown

Defense pairings

Nate Schmidt – John Carlson

Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen

Dmitry Orlov – Taylor Chorney

Extra: Aaron Ness

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby (starter) – Philipp Grubauer

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz: Backstrom should be All-Star, Selke winner

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted the line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home in Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to www.capfiendly.com. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s also signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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