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Round 2

Karl Alzner game-time decision for Capitals against Penguins

Washington defenseman will take warmups before Game 3 of Eastern Conference Second Round

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner will be a game-time decision for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Alzner, who will participate in warmups, has missed the past six games with an upper-body injury. Before that he played in 599 consecutive games, including the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, since his NHL playoff debut in Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens.

"It's a step," Alzner said. "I'm excited that I can actually be around the guys for the preparation. I've been at the rink for everything leading up to the game, but as soon as everyone comes into the room to get dressed I've been getting out of the way. So it's nice to feel like you're completely part of the team."

Alzner has been skating in full practices and morning skates for the past week but this will be his first time taking warmups since he last played in Game 2 of the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 15. Although Alzner would not say if he has been cleared medically to play, he said he's had no limitations in practices.

When asked if he feels ready physically to play, Alzner said, "I feel like I could have played the entire time, so that's a bad question for me. If it was up to me I would have played the entire thing. But I'm not always that smart."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he's been waiting for Alzner to be completely healthy and reach the point where he can contribute in games.

"Then we'll put him in the lineup," Trotz said. "He's getting close."

If Alzner does play, it's likely the Capitals will use seven defensemen. At the morning skate Monday, Alzner was in the extra defense pair with Taylor Chorney, who has yet to appear in the playoffs this season.

Video: OTT@WSH: Alzner blasts one-timer over Condon's glove

Nate Schmidt has played well in Alzner's place on the top defense pair with John Carlson, which appears to have factored into why the Capitals haven't rushed Alzner back. 

"Guys are playing good," Alzner said. "It's just a hard situation. These are things that you look back at when things are all done and you're like, 'Is this the right call or should we have done something different?' You just kind of go with whatever your gut tells you."

Schmidt, who was a healthy scratch for the first two games of the playoffs, said he's felt bad for Alzner having to sit out at the most important part of the season when he hadn't missed a game in nearly seven years.

"The guy played 599 games in a row," Schmidt said. "It's tough on your psyche. You're not used to not playing games. When I got sat out, I had sat within the last calendar year. This guy hadn't sat in this decade. So I feel for the guy. You want to be out there so bad and to not have the opportunity to do that, sometimes the body says no."

Trotz has not used seven defensemen in a game during his three seasons with the Capitals, but did it previously during his time as coach of the Nashville Predators. Alzner said there can be positives and negatives to having an extra defenseman in the lineup.

"The challenge that it poses is [for] the guys that like to be rolled out every other shift or whatever, sometimes your groove gets a little bit thrown off," Alzner said. "But at the same time, the guys that play lots of minutes sometimes get more out of those shifts because you don't have to go out as often. So you can maybe get up the ice a little bit more, your battles are a little better."

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