Reirden said after the game that the decision to take Carlson out was precautionary because of the nature of the exhibition. The team has a day off Friday and will be back to practice at Ford Performance Centre on Saturday at noon. Reirden said Carlson will continue to be evaluated.
“Obviously a really important guy for our team,” Reirden said. “[He has had] a tremendous season and did a lot of good things in the game [Wednesday] and fell a little bit awkwardly and got tangled up, and so we kept him off [Thursday]. We will evaluate every day, and best hope is to have him back on Saturday.”
The Capitals’ first round-robin game in the NHL’s modified return-to-play format is scheduled for Monday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Lightning. While it doesn’t appear Carlson’s injury will be a long-term issue, Radko Gudas dressed as the seventh defenseman in Wednesday’s exhibition and appeasr to be next in line if Carlson is unable to play. Gudas recorded 12:33 of ice time against the Hurricanes, including 2:19 on the penalty kill.
“I was taking a look at some different combinations,” Reirden said, “and if there was an extended amount of power plays or penalty kills, how to utilize guys without having them sitting around the bench. And we had a couple different looks of things I liked, and I think that makes our team a dangerous matchup if we are able to use different players.”
Despite Carlson’s injury, Reirden felt confident in his group and called Wednesday’s game a “decent start to our life in the bubble.” He said that the intensity to start the game was a product of good planning by the coaching staff and players and that the team will need to carry the same energy into round-robin play — especially with no fans in the stands in the secure environment in Toronto.
“We are going to have to figure [that] out on our bench and create our own energy and make sure that between myself and the other coaches and our leaders and guys that are more talkative on the bench,” Reirden said. “So we’re going to realize that certain moments happen in a game, and it’s not going to be the crowd that is going to be getting us going but more the plays that are executed that we can focus on.”
The players reiterated Thursday that they couldn’t really feel the difference in the arena, especially on the ice. It was more when they were on the bench that they noticed the quiet and at times missed the atmosphere of a home crowd.
“We’re missing the ‘Unleash the Fury,’ you know,” winger Jakub Vrana said, referring to the hype video shown on the video board at Capital One Arena. “Missing some extra energy from the fans. I can say every team, when they play home, you have an extra player out there. It’s the fans, and Washington, we have the best fans. They give us an extra energy.”
Braden Holtby said he actually thinks having no fans gives him an advantage. With the lower bowl seats covered, it gives the veteran goaltender better sight lines. With arenas moving to install darker seats, pucks can blend into the backgrounds. With the light gray coverings, it isn’t an issue.
“Sound-wise, too, you can hear everything, so it makes it all a little bit easier that way,” Holtby said. “I thought it was a pretty good setup there. … Felt pretty normal. A few of the guys were saying on the bench it’s kind of a hard time, which obviously as a goalie you don’t have to deal with. I was quite surprised. It seemed like a normal game.”
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