- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2017

Barring any setback, defenseman John Carlson should be ready to play Game 1 Thursday night for the Capitals.

Carlson missed the last three games of the regular season with a lower-body injury but returned to practice Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday, he skated in the top defensive pair with Karl Alzner, an indication that he would likely be ready to play.

“I’m just doing everything I possibly can to get better, get stronger. But, yeah, I feel good,” Alzner said.

Coach Barry Trotz said the team would still have to wait and see, but that Carlson would “probably” be good to go along with Brett Connolly, who missed the final two regular-season games with an illness but has practiced in his usual spot on the third line this week.

The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, will enter Game 1 without defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, a key cog, who has an upper-body injury. Leafs coach Mike Babcock is hopeful that Zaitsev will be ready for Game 2 Saturday.

“We’re always hopeful he’ll be back, but I don’t know 100 percent for sure,” Babcock said Wednesday. “I thought he was going to skate today, didn’t skate today, so obviously he wasn’t ready to go. We have a skate tomorrow and then the following day so we’ll figure it out what goes on. We’re just going to say everyone at playoff time is day-to-day.”

Toronto defenseman Roman Polak who, like Zaitsev, was injured in the Leafs’ final regular-season game, will play Thursday night.

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