DALLAS — Defenseman John Carlson won’t play against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, out for a third straight game with an unspecified “lower-body” injury. But he took an encouraging step by lightly skating at the end of Washington’s morning skate at American Airlines Center. He is considered day-to-day with the injury, and returning to the lineup next week seems to be a possibility.
“We’ll see where it is,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “He’ll skate again [on Monday] and he’ll skate [Tuesday], and we’ll see where he is.”
Carlson left practice early Jan. 12, and the team said he was being evaluated for a “lower-body” injury. Trotz indicated that Carlson’s ailment was not serious, saying that he just needed “a little maintenance” after a Jan. 11 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In that game, Carlson appeared hobbled after blocking a Kris Letang shot with his leg in the third period.
Carlson played 20:42 on Jan. 13 against Chicago. But the following game, against the Philadelphia Flyers, Carlson didn’t take a shift after the first period, and he has been out of the lineup since. Saturday morning was the first time he had done any skating with the team.
“It’s getting better, so that’s all you look for,” Carlson said. “There’s no magic answer.”
Carlson leads the team in time on ice per game, with 23:17, playing on the first power play and penalty kill. In his absence, Matt Niskanen has manned the top power-play unit, and Nate Schmidt has been on the second unit.
Carlson has five goals and 20 assists this season and has skated on a top defensive pairing with Karl Alzner. Alzner and Niskanen have been reunited as a pair with Carlson out. The Capitals have been the healthiest team in the league this season, as Saturday night will be just the 13th man-game lost to injury.
Carlson missed 26 games last season with a broken ankle, and after he initially returned to the lineup for 13 games, Trotz indicated that might have been premature. Carlson struggled and then opted to have surgery at the end of February for the same injury, missing an additional month. Washington might be opting for more caution this season.
“I think everything is different,” Carlson said. “Some stuff you just get bad luck with. Everybody’s different, and every injury is different, and the way that it responds changes from person to person and place to place. Just trying to do the right thing for myself and for the team.”