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Round 1

John Carlson expected to play Game 1 for Capitals

Defenseman should return from lower-body injury against Maple Leafs

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- All signs point to Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson playing in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CSN-DC, USA, CBC, TVA Sports) after he sat out the last four games of the regular season with a lower-body injury.

"If we have no setbacks, you'll see him in warmup tonight," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.

None of the Capitals' top six defensemen participated in their optional morning skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Thursday, but Carlson practiced the past two days. Nate Schmidt, who played in Carlson's place the past four games, and Taylor Chorney were the only Capitals defensemen to go on the ice.

Carlson led the Capitals averaging 22:42 of ice time per game during the regular season and had 37 points (nine goals, 28 assists) in 72 games. He said he felt good after practice Wednesday and was hoping his time out of the lineup would not impact his play in Game 1.

Video: WSH@COL: Carlson finishes rush for early PPG

"I've been away from the team a little bit, so I think that's the biggest thing is feeling everything out and getting back into the swing of things as far as the passing, the breakouts, all that kind of stuff," Carlson said. "Not that it's a huge deal. I think I can overcome that, but certainly that's something I was concentrating on."

Capitals left wing Brett Connolly missed the final two regular-season games because he was ill but is ready to play Game 1.

The Maple Leafs will be without defenseman Nikita Zaitsev because of an upper-body injury he sustained on a hit from Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno in their regular-season finale against the on Sunday. Toronto defenseman Roman Polak, who sustained a lower-body injury Sunday, and goaltender Frederik Andersen, who left a 5-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday after getting bumped in the head by Penguins forward Tom Sestito, are expected to play in Game 1.

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