Capitals tasked with replacing injured John Carlson on multiple fronts
Caps tasked with replacing injured Carlson on multiple fronts originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Capitals have dealt with injuries all season, but they suffered one of their most significant blows ahead of the holiday break Friday when defenseman John Carlson left their win over the Winnipeg Jets with a hand to his face stopping the flow of blood. A puck struck him in the right side of the head, sending him to the hospital.
Though Carlson was discharged Christmas Eve, the Capitals placed him on Injured Reserve before their next game and declared that the 32-year-old would be out “indefinitely.” Carlson had already missed six games with a lower-body injury earlier this year, yet still led all Capitals blue liners in goals (eight) and points (21).
Washington gave a glimpse into how it plans to replace Carlson’s production Tuesday, when it beat the New York Rangers 4-0 in the team’s first game without him. Trevor van Riemsdyk took his place on the top pairing opposite Erik Gustafsson while head coach Peter Laviolette spread his minutes on the power play and penalty kill units around.
“There is no other John Carlson in our organization,” Laviolette said at practice Wednesday. “Other guys have to step up and push those minutes and so last night, Alex [Alexeyev] comes in and he hit the post. He had a pretty good game. TvR moves up, he takes on a couple more minutes. ‘Gus’ moves to the power play. TvR gets a little more power play time now. That’s just the way it’s been because the amount of — what we’ve had to deal with, guys have had to step up. So, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of filling shoes, but ‘Carly’ is a big one.”
Carlson ranks first among Capitals defensemen in power play ice time (130:43 this season) and third in penalty kill minutes (56:07). That’s a lot of special teams time for Washington to divvy up, providing opportunities for players like Gustafsson (2:46 on the power play Tuesday) and Matt Irwin (3:16 on the penalty kill) to carve out new roles.
Gustafsson has come alive offensively over his last five games, recording a point in each game including the first hat trick of his NHL career on Dec. 17 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. While he hasn’t contributed much on the offensive end the last few seasons, he did put together a 60-point campaign with 18 on the power play for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2018-19. Both he and Dmitry Orlov (10 points in 21 games) will be relied on to replace that loss in scoring.
On the other end of the ice, van Riemsdyk and Nick Jensen already take the most penalty kill shifts. But Irwin, a player who has typically been a healthy scratch the last few seasons, will get some chances opposite the 23-year-old Alexeyev. One of them will likely be relegated to the press box once Martin Fehervary (upper body) is ready to return off IR.
Fehervary opened the season as the Capitals’ left-shot defenseman alongside Carlson but hasn’t played since being injured on a hit along the boards Dec. 3. Laviolette said at practice Wednesday that Fehervary would only need “a couple days now” before he’ll be ready to rejoin the lineup. Once he returns, Carlson will be the team’s only defenseman out with an injury.
There’s no replacing Carlson with one player, but the Capitals are in as good of a position as they could be with the health of their roster to play without him for the time being.
Source: Yahoo Sports