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Karl Alzner of Capitals not ready for series opener vs. Penguins

Washington defenseman will miss fifth straight game with upper-body injury

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

ARLINGTON. Va. -- Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner continues to progress in his recovery from an upper-body injury but will not play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

Coach Barry Trotz said the Capitals are waiting for Alzner, who will miss his fifth straight game, to get full medical clearance.

"We're not going to put him at risk," Trotz said. "He's improving, day to day."

 

[RELATED: Capitals vs. Penguins series coverage]

 

Alzner, who has not played since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round against Toronto Maple Leafs on April 15, participated in the optional morning skate on Thursday after practicing the previous two days and is getting closer to returning.

"I'm progressing day to day,'" Alzner said. "We'll re-evaluate [Friday]. That's pretty much where I'm at."

Before Alzner sat out Game 3 against the Maple Leafs, the 28-year-old had played in 599 consecutive NHL games, including the regular season and the playoffs, a streak that started with Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens.

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

"Very strange, very frustrating," Alzner said of having to sit out. "But it's less frustrating when we're winning games. So that's kind of been nice to not have to worry about that because we've got guys that can fill spots with ease. So that's been something that's been easier to handle, but I hate watching games. Ask [defenseman Taylor Chorney, who was a healthy scratch for the entire first round]. We're just losing it up there.

"It's tough to be a spectator. But at the same time it doesn't really matter if we're winning games. I'd sit out the rest of the playoffs if we can win the Cup. That's fine with me."

Last season, Alzner was watching from the locker room when Nick Bonino scored in overtime to give the Penguins a 4-3 series-clinching victory in Game 6 of that Eastern Conference Second Round series.

Alzner played the entire series with a sports hernia and started taking a cortisone injection before Game 5 to freeze the nerves around his injury. It helped him play better in Game 5, but he ended up tearing a groin muscle in the first period of Game 6 and didn't play after that.

"I stayed on the bench for the second period and then I was in the [locker room] for the third," Alzner said. "So I got to watch from behind the scenes."

He said that was worse than watching games from the press box in the first round this season.

"I finally got to the point where I can play and make an impact and then I was out again," Alzner said. "So, yeah, pretty [lousy] luck in the last two playoffs so far."

One year later, the Capitals have a shot at redemption with another playoff series against the Penguins and he has to watch again, at least at the start.

Video: Tom Gulitti on the Capitals' rematch with Pittsburgh

"That's really frustrating too," Alzner said. "I really wanted to be able to get going and try to get a little bit of revenge, but we're prepared for it so it's not too big of a deal. So yeah, I would love to play against the Penguins."

Having never watched a game at Verizon Center previously, Alzner said Chorney had to show him where to go before Game 5 of the Maple Leafs series.

"It's pure anxiety," Chorney said of watching a game with Alzner.

In Alzner's defense, he hasn't had much experience with it.

"There's not much talking going on," he said. "I can watch a hockey game and not say a single word, but for some reason when I'm up there watching the game around the guys if we score I'm super, super jacked up, almost more excited than when I'm on the ice playing."

Chorney nodded, knowingly.

"Then when they score, you just get so frustrated and mad," Alzner said. "The jitters and the emotion you get, it's way more nerve-wracking to watch a game than it is to play a game, in my opinion at least. I just have a hard time doing it."

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