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Carlson out for Capitals against Lightning in round-robin opener

Norris Trophy finalist fell into end boards during exhibition win

by Wes Crosby / Independent Correspondent

John Carlson did not play for the Washington Capitals for their round-robin opener of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday.

"He's such an important part of our team -- for that matter, any member of our team -- we're not going to put him in a situation where, if something were to go wrong or [he'd] reaggravate any injury or anything that would potentially cause a chance for him to miss part of [the Eastern Conference First Round]," coach Todd Reirden said Sunday. "So, we'll do what's right for the player, what's right for the team. We wouldn't put him out there in a situation where anything could become worse. He's such a large part of our team, a guy who had a tremendous year and is a huge part of our blue line."

Carlson, a finalist for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the best defenseman in the NHL, practiced the past two days, after leaving a 3-2 exhibition win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday. He did not practice Thursday and Washington was off Friday.

"We'll do what's right for us and for the player, for the long haul here," Reirden said Saturday. "If he continues to progress, we'll anxiously want him in our lineup as quickly as possible. At the same time, we have to make sure we're doing the right thing for our team and the player."

As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.

In the round-robin at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the hub city for the Eastern Conference, the Capitals will also play the Philadelphia Flyers (Thursday) and Boston Bruins (Sunday) to determine seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Carlson got tangled up with Carolina forward Nino Niederreiter and fell into the end boards to the right of Washington's net with 14:53 remaining in the third period. He played one more shift, for 34 seconds, before leaving the game with 9:59 remaining.

Before leaving, Carlson had one shot on goal in 16:37 of ice time, 4:11 on the power play. He led NHL defensemen with 60 assists and 75 points and tied Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild for ninth in the NHL in average ice time per game (24:38) in 69 games before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

Carlson has scored 478 points (105 goals, 373 assists) in 757 NHL games, all with the Capitals. His 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 24 playoff games helped Washington win the Stanley Cup in 2018. staff writer Tracey Myers contributed to this report

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