- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2013

Let’s try a little exercise.

Give yourself two minutes to get lost in thought. Let your mind go. Think about whatever you want. Just do not, under any circumstances, think about elephants. Do not think about how they are big, or gray, or have cool trunks and tusks.

Do not think about elephants. At all.

OK, time’s up. Be honest — did you think about anything but elephants?

Welcome to John Carlson’s situation. Carlson, 23, has a significant job in the sports world. He’s a talented defenseman for the Washington Capitals and his play of late is one reason the Caps have surged up the Metropolitan Division standings.

Carlson has an elephant of his own. He’s one of 48 candidates for a spot on the United States Olympic team. Sometime around the first of the year, he’ll get a phone call. He’ll either be told see you in Sochi or thanks but no thanks.

But he can’t think about that.

“It’s a little tough,” Carlson said. “You want to worry about the team because that’s what we do for a living and certainly that’s what I’ve been trying to do and let the rest take care of itself.

“But I think anyone would be lying if they said they weren’t thinking about it a little bit.”

Carlson and the other candidates were in the area Aug. 26-27 for an orientation camp at Kettler IcePlex. That was the last time the group would be together before the Olympics, which leads to a lot of natural questions before those fateful phone calls are made with good news for the chosen 25.

Who is watching? When? What are they watching?

Is the Caps’ game Wednesday against visiting Pittsburgh more important because Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is the U.S. Olympic coach? Is the game Dec. 7 against Nashville more important because Preds general manager David Poile is also GM of the Olympic team?

Have decisions already been made?

Yeah, don’t think about any of that.

“I think it is human nature that it is on your mind,” Caps coach Adam Oates said. “I talked to Dan Bylsma in the summertime about John. He’s played really good hockey lately.”

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