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Capitals' John Carlson says surgically repaired ankle feels 'perfect'

Capitals' John Carlson says surgically repaired ankle feels 'perfect'

With the World Cup of Hockey set to begin in a few weeks and the start of the NHL’s regular season not far behind that, John Carlson has a lot on his mind these days.

Something the Capitals defenseman no longer thinks about, though, is the broken ankle that required surgery in late February.

“I hurt it, took some time off, tried to come back, it felt good, and then it kind of deteriorated,” Carlson said recently.  

“At that time,” he continued, “we just felt the only option was to get surgery and put some screws in it to basically bulletproof it, make sure that I was back in time for the playoffs and that we were not ever going to have an issue with it again.”

After missing a total of 25 regular season games, Carlson returned to form in the playoffs, racking up five goals and 12 points while averaging 26:54 of ice time against the Flyers and Penguins.

The ankle hasn’t bothered him since, the 26-year-old said, and he doesn’t anticipate that he'll need to have the screws removed. 

“Only if it’s really, really bugging me, and it’s not,” Carlson said of the hardware used to repair the fracture. “It’s perfect, has been the whole summer. It’s good.”

These days, Carlson is skating and working out daily at Kettler Capitals Iceplex as he ramps up for the World Cup in Toronto, where he’ll represent Team USA and join eight fellow Capitals who are also participating in the eight-team tournament. The teams will convene for practice on Sept. 5 and the preliminary games begin Sept. 17 at Air Canada Centre.         

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2016-17 NHL Season Preview: Carolina Hurricanes

2016-17 NHL Season Preview: Carolina Hurricanes

It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.

Team: Carolina Hurricanes

How they did last season: 35-31-16 (86 points), 6th in the Metropolitan, 10th in the Eastern Conference. Did not make the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: LW Viktor Stalberg, RW Lee Stempniak, LW Teuvo Teravainen, LW Bryan Bickell

Notable departures: LW Nathan Gerbe

When they will play the Caps: Nov. 12 in Carolina; Dec. 16 in Carolina; Jan. 23 in Washington; Feb. 7 in Washington

RELATED: CAPS' HOLTBY BEGINS RAMPING UP FOR WORLD CUP

Analysis: The Carolina Hurricanes will try to take the next step in their rebuild this season by breaking into the playoffs, but they have some tough questions they have to answer first.

Despite having plenty of talent on defense with players like Noah Hanifin and Justin Faulk, the biggest concern for Carolina is in net where the Hurricanes return the Cam Ward and Eddie Lack combo that struggled so much last season. Ward managed only a .909 save percentage and 2.41 goals against average (GAA). Lack was actually worse with a .901 save percentage and 2.81 GAA. Despite the tough season, Carolina elected to re-sign Ward to a two-year deal, most likely due to a misguided sense of loyalty. Sure, he was the MVP in their Stanley Cup season, but those days are long behind him.

The goaltending has to be better or the Hurricanes are going nowhere.

Carolina also needs to start getting the puck in the net. The Hurricanes were 27th in the NHL in scoring in each of the past two seasons. Carolina lacks a superstar forward like a Connor McDavid or an Alex Ovechkin, but there is still plenty of talent capable of taking the next step. Jeff Skinner led the team with 51 points last season and is only 24. Victor Rask also looks poised for a good season after scoring 48 points. The Hurricanes added Teuvo Teravainen and Lee Stempniak in addition over the offseason to further boost the offense.

And everything is tied together by head coach Bill Peters who appears to be a real steal as head coach.

When Team Canada announced their coaching staff for the World Cup of Hockey, one coach seemingly stood out from the others. Joining Mike Babcock’s staff of Joel Quenneville, Claude Julien and Barry Trotz was Peters. At the time, I thought Peters’ addition was curious considering the others on the staff, but he certainly has proved himself during his time in Carolina.

Considering the roster the Hurricanes took into the 2015-16 season and the scoring and goaltending struggles they had, the fact that Carolina was in the mix for the playoffs fat all speaks to the strength of Peters as a coach.

The Hurricanes are in good hands with Peters at the helm.

Season prediction: Considering what Carolina was able to do last season with obvious flaws and a young team, the playoffs are not entirely out of the question for this season.

It may be tempting fate to say this, but the goaltending can’t possibly be any worse and if it is, that will force the team into making some kind of move to bring in another goalie.

Another year for the young core on offense should do wonders and I like the additions the team made in the offseason. Peters has established himself as a good coach and he has the Hurricanes moving in the right direction. The only problem is the division.

Carolina finished behind Washington, Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders and Philadelphia in the division. How many of those teams can Carolina jump in the standings this season? I see one, maybe two teams, but that’s about it (you’ll have to wait until later in the week for previews on the rest of those teams to see who we think will take a step back).

Still, a wild card spot is not out of the question and it would come probably a year before anyone really anticipated this team had a shot at reaching the postseason.

MORE HOCKEY: DIPAULI LIKED THE 'FIT' IN PITTSBURGH BETTER

2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS

Pacific Division
— Anaheim Ducks
— Arizona Coyotes
— Calgary Flames
— Edmonton Oilers
— Los Angeles Kings
— San Jose Sharks
— Vancouver Canucks

Central Division
— Chicago Blackhawks
— Colorado Avalanche
— Dallas Stars
— Minnesota Wild
— Nashville Predators
— St. Louis Blues
— Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division
— Boston Bruins
— Buffalo Sabres
— Detroit Red Wings
— Florida Panthers
— Montreal Canadiens
— Ottawa Senators
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs

Metropolitan Division
— Columbus Blue Jackets (coming Aug. 24)
— New Jersey Devils (coming Aug. 25)
— New York Islanders (coming Aug. 26)
— New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
— Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
— Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
— Washington Capitals (coming Aug. 30)

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2016-17 NHL Season Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

2016-17 NHL Season Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.

Team: Toronto Maple Leafs

How they did last season: 29-42-11 (69 points), 8th in the Atlantic, 16th in the Eastern Conference. Did not make the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: C Auston Matthews, LW Matt Martin, D Roman Polak, D Nikita Zaitsev, G Frederik Andersen, G Jhonas Enroth

Notable departures: RW Michael Grabner, RW P.A. Parenteau, D Stuart Percy, G Jonathan Bernier

When they will play the Caps: Nov. 26 in Toronto; Jan. 3 in Washington; April 4 in Toronto

RELATED: CAPS' HOLTBY BEGINS RAMPING UP FOR WORLD CUP

Analysis: Get coach of the future: check.

Get potential star in the draft: check.

Get a starter in net: check.

The rebuild seems to be going just fine thus far in Toronto. After what we all expected to be a tough season, Toronto finished with the worst record in the league. Remarkably, Edmonton didn’t win the top overall pick for once and the Maple Leafs got the chance to select the top player in the draft, Auston Matthews.

Matthews does not appear to be one of those “generational” talents like Connor McDavid, but still looks like he will be a very good player. He will join a stable of young talent that the Leafs hope to develop this year such as William Nylander and Mitch Marner.

Mercifully, the Jonathan Bernier/James Reimer goalie tandem is no more. Instead, the Leafs have bet the farm on Frederik Andersen as they traded a first-round and a second-round draft pick to Anaheim to get him. That’s a pretty big price tag for a goalie who I’m not all that convinced can be more than just an average starter. With Jhonas Enroth as his backup, he’s clearly the top guy and will be expected to start 55-60 games.

The trade was also curious in terms of timing because the Leafs are still quite a ways away from being anything close to competitive for a playoff spot. It seems a bit odd to bring in a 26-year-old netminder to be the goalie of the future when the future is still probably another two or more years away.

All that said, Andersen is certainly better than what they had.

Season prediction: This is a critical year for Toronto not because they are going to do anything in the standings, but because they can’t lose sight of the overall goal.

The worst and hardest part of a rebuild is not tearing the team down, it’s building it back up. They have young talent, now they have to develop it. That means there will be more growing pains as the team turns its roster over to inexperienced youngsters.

One need only look at the team’s cap situation to understand what this season means for Toronto. Brooks Laich and Joffrey Lupul are still on the books as well as Nathan Horton and Stephane Robidas, two players who will never step foot on the ice. Those aren’t the kind of contracts you find on the rosters of teams looking for a playoff push.

The goal for this season is not to win, it's to develop players like Matthews, Nylander and Marner as well as determine if Andersen is indeed good enough to carry the load as a starter by himself. The fans and the management need to keep sight of the overall goal of rebuiling the team and be patient.

Patience, however, can sometimes be a struggle in Toronto.

MORE HOCKEY: DIPAULI LIKED THE 'FIT' IN PITTSBURGH BETTER

2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS

Pacific Division
— Anaheim Ducks
— Arizona Coyotes
— Calgary Flames
— Edmonton Oilers
— Los Angeles Kings
— San Jose Sharks
— Vancouver Canucks

Central Division
— Chicago Blackhawks
— Colorado Avalanche
— Dallas Stars
— Minnesota Wild
— Nashville Predators
— St. Louis Blues
— Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division
— Boston Bruins
— Buffalo Sabres
— Detroit Red Wings
— Florida Panthers
— Montreal Canadiens
— Ottawa Senators
Tampa Bay Lightning

Metropolitan Division
— Carolina Hurricanes (coming Aug. 23)
— Columbus Blue Jackets (coming Aug. 24)
— New Jersey Devils (coming Aug. 25)
— New York Islanders (coming Aug. 26)
— New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
— Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
— Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
— Washington Capitals (coming Aug. 30)