The Capitals have consistently asked John Carlson to serve a major role this season but as injuries impacted the rest of the defense around the rookie those requests increased. When Mike Green was hit in the head by a puck in early February, knocking him out of the lineup, Carlson played 23 minutes or more in eight of the next nine games.
Before the 10th contest, Washington picked up Dennis Wideman in a trade with the Florida Panthers for additional depth on the blue line. Wideman stepped quickly into Green’s role and averaged more than 24 minutes a game before being sidelined by a lower-body injury. In 13 games since Wideman’s arrival, excluding Tuesday’s contest which the veteran was forced to leave early with the injury, Carlson has played more than 23 minutes only four times.
Against Carolina Tuesday, as the Capitals went with five defensemen after Wideman left the game, Carlson recorded a season-high 28 minutes, 12 seconds of ice time. Carlson said he is prepared to shoulder a greater burden once again.
“I think that everyone needs to our top two D are hurt and we’ve just all got to rally around as a core group of guys and play the way we can,” Carlson said. “I think that’s just focus. You have to make sure you’re focused every shift, no matter how much you play you cant take any shift off or plays off and that’s when you start getting in trouble and just maintaining that is the biggest thing.”
It will be interesting to see how Coach Bruce Boudreau manages the defenseman’s minutes, particularly someone like Carlson, who may be called upon to play the majority of any or all power play minutes the Capitals recieve once again.
Boudreau didn’t express the same concern Thursday that he had earlier in the season about wearing down the 21-year-old with the increased ice time.
“He’s 21 years old and it’s not like we practice hard anymore at this time [of the season] so im hoping his recovery is fine,” Boudreau said. “He’s a guy who takes care of himself so I think it should be ok. There’s a lot of ther teams who have other guys doing the same thing it just so happens our guys that are younger are doing it. We’ve lost our top three minute guys from either last year or this year so it’s somebody else’s chance to become a top minute guy.”