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Karl Alzner of Capitals questionable for Game 1

Defenseman practices but may not play against Penguins in opener of Eastern Conference Second Round

by Katie Brown / NHL.com Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner went through a full practice Tuesday but is questionable for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2).

Alzner missed the final four games of the six-game first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs because of an upper-body injury.

"I feel good," Alzner said. "I'm progressing and that's all I have to say about that. I feel good. I'm getting better."

Alzner participated in penalty-kill drills but took line rushes as an extra with defenseman Taylor Chorney, who didn't play in the first round. As for Game 1, Alzner said he doesn't know if he'll be in the lineup even if he is healthy.

"I think so," he said. "But yeah, I'm not too sure. I hope so, I guess."

 

[RELATED: Complete Capitals-Penguins series coverage]

 

Coach Barry Trotz hasn't gotten to a point where he's has to decide if Alzner would play.

"He's progressing," Trotz said. "He's day to day, and when the trainers say go then he'll go."

Nate Schmidt has been playing in Alzner's spot with John Carlson since Game 3 against the Maple Leafs. Schmidt has played well enough that the Capitals could use seven defensemen when Alzner is ready to return.

If that happens, it's possible Schmidt could stay with Carlson, and Alzner could be used primarily as a penalty killer with limited ice time.

"He's come in and he's done a really good job," Trotz said of Schmidt, who led the Capitals with a plus-5 rating in the first round, had two assists and averaged 18:20 of ice time in four games. "He's such a good skater. We played a quick team, he fit in just perfectly with us. I thought he was making a statement, 'Hey, you're going to make it tough to take me out of the lineup.' And he's done that and he's done his job, and that's what you want."

Video: Hradek previews Capitals vs. Pens second round series

Alzner played in 599 consecutive NHL games, including the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs, before he was sidelined April 17. Though missing regular-season games would have been hard, watching playoff games was much more difficult.

"It's very, very frustrating, especially at this point of the year," Alzner said. "It's hard watching games, and you feel really bad about it, but the team played awesome and didn't give me too much to worry about."

Forward Lars Eller had a maintenance day and did not practice but is expected to Wednesday. Trotz said forward Tom Wilson is fine after leaving practice after being hit in the foot with a shot.

Also leaving practice early was forward Alex Ovechkin, who had one of his skates break. Trotz said Ovechkin couldn't find an extra pair to use.

"I don't know what happened but it was a skate," Trotz said. "He came over and there was something hanging off there, so I think he went into the corner, [the skate] got sliced and he's fine. As you see, you saw him walking around, he's fine."

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