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Posted at 09:51 AM ET, 11/17/2010

Caps' young defensemen are learning on the job

Throughout the summer, questions were raised as to whether the Capitals' young defensemen -- John Carlson and Karl Alzner -- were ready to handle a substantial role in the NHL. While both will tell you they're still learning on the job, both believe that the more they play, the more relaxed and comfortable on the ice they'll become.

Carlson averages the third most minutes on the team, behind just Mike Green and Jeff Schultz, with 21:40 per game. Alzner, who typically doesn't play on the power play and isn't spending as much time on the penalty kill as Carlson, ranks eighth on the team with 18:12 of ice time.

"I'm young and I want to contribute all the time and I want to be one of the main guys. I don't think I'm quite there yet," Carlson said. "But that's why I always want to come to practice. The more I'm out there the better I feel."

Alzner said: "You see it here and around the league, teams instilling a lot of confidence in their young defensemen by letting them, say, a guy like Tyler Myers, play 25 minutes a game. When you play that much and know you're going to be playing a lot, it's a lot easier. That's what's happening with us here, we know [the coaching staff] trusts us."

The coaching staff started putting Alzner and Carlson together on a pairing consistently back on Oct. 27 when the Capitals began a three-game road trip in Raleigh. The move was meant to help both players relax and allow them both to fall back on their familiarity with each other.

"Sometimes when you're a young guy playing with an older guy you feel more pressure, you don't want to let him down," assistant coach Bob Woods said. "Where as with this, you have two kids going through the same experience and I think they complement each other, they can support each other and they both understand exactly what the other one is going through."

It's not always easy being a young defenseman carrying a significant workload in the NHL, but John Carlson and Karl Alzner appear to be growing increasingly comfortable in the transition.

Don't forget to submit your questions here for the latest video chat with yours truly, today at noon.

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And you can count McPhee among those who aren't completely happy with the way the Capitals have managed to win so far this season. (

Also from, Jason Chimera discusses his first outdoor game -- the Heritage Classic in 2003.

By  |  09:51 AM ET, 11/17/2010

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