Carlson expected to play Game 2

Carlson expected to play Game 2
April 30, 2011, 9:50 pm
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Saturday April 30, 2011, 5:40 p.m.Updated Sunday, May 1, 11:45 a.m.

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By Ben Raby
CSNWashington.com

Capitals defenseman John Carlson, who sat out the third period of Game 1 with an undisclosed injury, is expected to play tonight in Game 2 of Washington's second-round playoff series against the Lightning.

The Capitals website reported after the team's morning skate that Carlson should be in the lineup.

Carlson did not skate in Saturday's practice at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, making his status for Game 2 appear uncertain.

Carlson played just 36 seconds after colliding with Tampa Bays Nate Thompson late in the second period of Game 1.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said on Saturday that there is a pretty good chance that Carlson will play in Game 2, but added that hes not 100 percent sure.

If Carlson could not dress for Game 2, the Caps would be without a key cog on their power play that desperately needs to rebound after its 0-for-5 showing in Game 1. The Capitals would also be missing one of their most durable players -- Carlson has played every game of his rookie season.

Its going to throw things off a little bit, Karl Alzner said of the possibility of playing without his defensive partner. Alzner and Carlson have teamed up for much of the year to form to Capitals No. 1 shutdown pair.

He does such a good job not only at separating guys from the puck, but carrying it out of the zone and making plays out of the zone. Its one thing to just shut guys down, but to turn that into something else is a whole other thing, and I think thats what hes very good at. Wed miss him hugely if he wasnt in.

Carlson tied the franchise record for most points by a rookie defenseman and led all Caps blue-liners in scoring this season. But Alzner says that in addition to Carlsons offensive prowess, the Caps would miss his play away from the puck if he were unable to play Sunday.

I think hes very good at both, but hes maybe a little better offensively that you sometimes miss the defensive ability. The guy is a young kid and he might not look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but hes strong -- really strong on the puck -- and he can push guys off the puck all the time.

Carlson has emerged as a minutes-eater for the Capitals, leading the team in ice time 21 times during the regular season and twice more in the first-round of the playoffs. Carlsons ice time (22:38 per game) was also tops among NHL rookies, and that stamina became increasingly important for the Caps down the stretch with late-season injuries to Mike Green and Dennis Wideman.

The combination of Carlsons skill and durability has also allowed Boudreau to monitor Greens minutes since he returned to the lineup at the start of the playoffs.

But with Carlson injured in Game 1 and the Caps trailing in the third period, Green carried the load, skating a team-high 11:45 in the final frame. According to Boudreau, if Carlson was well enough to play in the third period, he would have.

When you look at Mike Greens minutes being 27 minutes, its too high, Boudreau said. He had a great series against New York, and he was playing 18, 19, 20 minutes in regulation. Those are the kind of minutes weve got to get back for him.

I felt the same way, Green said of the extra burden he carried. To be effective, especially in playoffs, you have to keep your shifts short and be fresh, and I felt like I was out there a little too much and wasnt able to be as productive as I felt I couldve been.

Having Carlson back Sunday would certainly help. If Carlson could not play, his spot may go to the right-handed Sean Collins, who has played just four NHL games since Jan. 10, 2009. Tyler Sloan could also see his first action this postseason.

Ben Raby is a producer and reporter on the Washington Capitals Radio Network. He can be heard on The Morning Skate airing Sundays at 9 a.m. on 106.7 The Fan.