Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden told the media before the team’s round-robin opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday (4 PM ET, NBCSN nationally, NBC Sports Washington locally) that defenseman John Carlson will be a game-time decision.
The 30-year-old left the Capitals’ exhibition game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday after crashing into the boards in the third period with a Hurricanes skater. He missed over half of the period. His legs got tangled in his skates but skated off, meaning that he was taken off likely for precautionary reasons.
He got down the tunnel on his own.
The team cannot afford to lose Carlson, who led the team and all NHL defensemen with 75 points in 69 regular-season games, as he averaged 24:37 per game during the regular season, the most on the Capitals. He is a finalist for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best defenseman.
The round-robin games are only for seeding, so the team has already clinched the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, meaning the team could be fine resting Carlson if he is not ready. The tournament is set to begin on Tuesday, August 11.
The forward lines will remain the same from Wednesday’s game while the defensive pairings will be figured it once Carlson’s status is known, Reirden.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos is not expected to play against the Capitals due to an injury suffered during phase two of the NHL’s return-to-play plan and defenseman Victor Hedman could play after missing some time last week due to a personal matter. Neither played in the team’s exhibition game against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday.
The Capitals face the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday and the Boston Bruins on Sunday before the Stanley Cup Playoffs officially begin.
By Harrison Brown