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Round 1

John Carlson not definite for Capitals in Game 1

Washington hopes top-pair defenseman will play against Maple Leafs on Thursday

by Katie Brown / NHL.com Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson was a full participant in practice Tuesday, but his status for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-DC) remains unclear.

Instead of skating with Karl Alzner, his usual partner on Washington's top defensive pair, Carlson was on an ad hoc fourth duo with Taylor Chorney. Nate Schmidt skated with Alzner. Coach Barry Trotz said that was more to get Carlson back into a rhythm after missing some practice time than anything else.

"We'll see," Trotz said. "[Carlson] and [forward] Brett Connolly have missed some time so we're easing them in, but I expect he'll probably be a go. But we'll see how they react after one practice here, so you'll have to see."

Connolly missed the last two games of the season recovering from an illness. He skated in his usual spot on the third line with Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller.

Carlson missed the last four games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. Although he wasn't limited in practice, he wouldn't commit to his status for Game 1. "At this point it doesn't really matter, so I'm just taking it day-by-day and getting better," he said.

Video: Capitals vs Maple Leafs First Round Preview

Carlson had 37 points (nine goals, 28 assists) in 72 games and led Washington in average ice time (22:42). He missed six games earlier in the season for an unrelated injury.

During special-teams drills, Carlson practiced with the second power-play unit , a good indicator of his likelihood to play . But if Carlson isn't ready for Game 1, Trotz trusts Schmidt to fill in a little while longer.

"He's done a really good job," Trotz said of Schmidt. "He's played very well. When we made the deal for [Kevin] Shattenkirk, we made our defense pretty deep, so we feel confident we're deep there and Schmidt's done a really good job when he's been first out of the gate. He's done a really good job filling in for Carlson."

Washington acquired Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 27 to bolster an already strong defensive corps for the postseason. The Capitals finished the season allowing 177 goals, the fewest in the NHL.

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