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Alzner not feeling Game 7 pressure

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Alzner not feeling Game 7 pressure
Young defenseman Karl Alzner began the postseason in the AHL. Tonight, he'll be on Washington's blue line for a Game 7 showdown against Habs
ARLINGTON, Va. -- By Karl Alzner's count, he's already played in a bunch of Game 7s.

"In my backyard, in parking lots with my buddies playing street hockey," Alzner said Wednesday morning from Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "If you count those I have a bunch under my belt. It'll be a little bit different tonight, but I'm very relaxed, which is good."

Alzner got the call from the Washington Capitals Tuesday and was told he'd be needed for Game 7 against the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS). He was in the middle of the AHL playoffs with the Hershey Bears, who lead their second-round series, 2-0.

But Tom Poti suffered a broken right orbital bone during Game 6 Monday, and although the Capitals already have two defensemen as healthy scratches in Tyler Sloan and John Erskine, GM George McPhee went fishing in Hershey, and caught Alzner, the prospect who Washington selected No. 5 in the 2007 Entry Draft.

"It's a little weird. Of all the games to be thrown into, just a regular playoff game is tough enough, but the way it is now and with what the team has done this season, this is Game 7 and we really, really want to win this. I just have to play and have fun. I have come to realize that over the last half of the season, not to over-think these things."
-- Karl Alzner

Now the 21-year-old, who has played in 51 regular-season NHL games, will get to play in his first Stanley Cup Playoff game, and it just so happens to be one of the biggest games in franchise history.

"It's awesome," Alzner said. "There is not too much else I can say besides it's unbelievable."

But ...

"It's a little weird," he added. "Of all the games to be thrown into, just a regular playoff game is tough enough, but the way it is now and with what the team has done this season, this is Game 7 and we really, really want to win this. I just have to play and have fun. I have come to realize that over the last half of the season, not to over-think these things."

Alzner, who technically is not a rookie because of how many games he has played, likely will be paired with rookie John Carlson. The two played together for virtually the entire AHL season in Hershey, so they already have that chemistry.

Alzner hopes to have a chance to show that Wednesday.

"I know it's going to be me and (Carlson) or me and (Joe) Corvo, and I'm not saying I don't want to play with Corvo, but I have the chemistry with Carly," he said. (We) have played together for a while so if I'm with him, then perfect. That's where I hope to be."

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn't announce his pairs Wednesday morning.

"I don't know if that's the combination we're going to use," he said of the Alzner-Carlson pair, "but I have no hesitation in using them together."

Boudreau doesn't think he or anyone will have to say anything to Alzner before the game.

"He's been involved in an awful lot of big games in his young life already and so I think he wants to be in that position because he wants to prove he's an every-day NHL player," Boudreau said. "I think he's excited about being here and I don't think the pressure, whether it's Game 1 or Game 7, is going to do anything to Karl."

Alzner, too, believes he has a lot to prove.

"This is the highest measuring stick right now and I know there are tons of guys here and every time I'm here it's fighting for a job," Alzner said. "It's no different now. I'm going to be proving whatever I can, but not trying to do too much."

Since he has been invested in his postseason with the Bears, Alzner, who has 5 points and a plus-4 rating in seven Calder Cup playoff games, has had little time to do much homework on the Canadiens. He said he's watched two of the games and caught highlights of the others, but at least he knows a little bit about the Habs considering he has played them five times in his career, including twice this season.

"I think I have had some pretty good games against them in the past," he said. "They were my second game in the League and it's a team you don't forget, especially with them being Montreal. I'm ready to go. I'm excited to play."

His teammates are ready for him, too.

"He's gone over the game plan and I think Karl, he's one of those players that is very steady defensively and he's always in good position, so you just let him play his game," defenseman Shaone Morrisonn said. "He's going to be amped up and he's going to feel great out there."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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