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Round 2

Paul Carey in lineup for Capitals in Game 2 against Penguins

Forward will play first postseason game of 2017, replace Brett Connolly on fourth line

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON. Va. -- The Washington Capitals will insert Paul Carey in place of Brett Connolly at right wing on the fourth line for Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Second Round at Verizon Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said defenseman Karl Alzner is getting close to returning from his upper-body injury but will miss his sixth game in a row.

Carey, 28, played six NHL games during the regular season and did not have a point. He hasn't played since the regular-season finale against the Florida Panthers on April 9.

"What we're trying to do, he'll be a real good fit," Trotz said. "He's a hard worker. I just think he'll get an opportunity. He hasn't had that opportunity. When he's gone in, he's done a great job."

It will be Carey's first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since he played three games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2014. Trotz called Carey on Friday night to give him the news.

"It was definitely a little hard to sleep, but I finally got some rest and I'm ready to go," Carey said.

Connolly said Trotz informed him Saturday morning he will be a healthy scratch.

"It's not my decision," Connolly said. "It's the coach's decision and we'll leave it at that."

Connolly, who had 23 points (15 goals, eight assists) in 66 games, missed the final two games of the regular season because he was ill, but played in 49 consecutive games before that since he was a healthy scratch against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 21.

Video: STL@WSH: Carey goes top shelf with redirect

"I'm just looking for a little bit of a different look there," Trotz said. "He's probably not happy that he's not in. Everybody wants to be in at this time of year, but he's been a real good pro. He understands what we're trying to do and he will just prepare."

The Capitals signed Connolly as an unrestricted free agent to help improve their scoring depth after they felt the Penguins exposed that as a weakness during their second-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh last season. Connolly, who will turn 25 on May 2, had an NHL career high in goals despite limited ice time (10:41 per game), mostly on the third line.

Connolly began the playoffs on the third line with Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller but was replaced by Tom Wilson in Game 4 of the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs and moved to the fourth line. Wilson responded by scoring two goals in a 5-4 win in Game 4 and Connolly's ice time dwindled.

After playing 6:07 in a 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh in Game 1, Connolly is averaging 8:34 in ice time in the playoffs but said he did not see the decision coming.

"No, I didn't," he said. "But like I said, it's something I can't control. [Carey] is going to go in there and do a great job and we'll leave it at that."

The decision to play Carey instead of Connolly could be a precursor to the Capitals going with seven defensemen when Alzner is ready. Although Trotz has never dressed seven defensemen during three seasons with the Capitals, he did as coach of the Nashville Predators.

"I've done it before and I've done it very successfully," Trotz said. "As a coach depending on your personnel, I found in my previous life that I didn't have as many maybe offensive weapons. It gave me an opportunity to put an offensive weapon in there a little bit more often on a regular rotation. I'm fine with the seven [defensemen]. If we have to go there, we will go there."

Alzner has been progressing and said he has no limitations in practice but there is no change in his status.

"Just waiting," he said. "I'll be ready whenever."

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