COLUMBUS -- For years, Karl Alzner and John Carlson were almost inseparable on the ice.
Fans in Washington referred to them as "Carlzner," and they evolved together from top prospects with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League to the Washington Capitals' top defensive pairing. When coach Barry Trotz and his assistant in charge of defensemen, Todd Reirden, came to Washington this offseason, they decided it was time for a change.
Alzner and Carlson haven't taken a regular shift together in a single game this season. And yet each is playing much better than he has in recent seasons. Part of that is because of their new partners, veterans Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, who signed with the Capitals as free agents this summer.
"I think it was important that we separate those two," Trotz said. "When you get into having a partner for so long, and they both grew up together, they're both roughly the same age, I think you can miss some things. Having a guy like Brooks or [Niskanen], coming from another organization, being a little bit older and maybe a bit more experience, can really benefit the two younger guys who have played together a long time."