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Connor Carrick, Paul Carey re-assigned to AHL

Paul Carey (28) celebrates his goal with teammates Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov and Michael Latta in the third period against the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Washington Capitals have re-assigned defenseman Connor Carrick and forward Paul Carey to their American Hockey League affiliate, the team announced Monday.

The return of both players is an encouraging sign about the progressing health of defenseman Brooks Orpik and center Marcus Johansson. Orpik has missed 37 games with a lower-body bone injury, and Johansson has been out the four games since the all-star break with an upper-body injury.

Johansson and Orpik are traveling with the Capitals on their three-game road trip to Nashville, Minnesota and Dallas, and after the team re-assigned Carrick and Carey, that leaves the team with six healthy defensemen (since Orpik is on injured reserve) and just one extra forward, including Johansson.

Both started practicing with the team last week, but with Orpik having not played a game since Nov. 10, Johansson is likely closer to a return than Orpik is. Since the team has an off day on Monday and didn’t have morning skates on Saturday or Sunday with matinee puck drops, it’s unlikely Johansson would make his return in Nashville because there wouldn’t have been an opportunity for him to skate with the team in three days. In his first practice with the team on Friday, he wore a non-contact jersey.

Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said last week that “ideally” he’d like for a player to have more than one practice with the team before playing again. But a congested second-half schedule provides the team with fewer rigorous practices, so there are fewer opportunities to ease a player back into the lineup through practices alone.

“Now that you’re playing every second day, you’re not going to have those type of practices that you probably would like,” Trotz said. “It’s just not going to happen, so you don’t have any choice. You’re just going to have to rely on what we have in the limited practices.

“You’re going to throw a guy in and probably limit his minutes a little bit and let him get back into it a little bit.”

Carey, 27, played in four games with the Capitals this season and scored his first NHL goal on Saturday at New Jersey. The goal tied the game in the third period, setting up a Washington win in overtime. Carey has registered 31 points (13 goals and 18 assists) in 43 games with the Hershey Bears this season.

Carrick, 21, has appeared in three games with the Capitals this season, but he did not play during this latest recall stint, the extra defenseman for the two games he was on the roster for. He has registered six points (one goal and five assists) in 37 career NHL games with Washington.