What to watch for: Bengals at Redskins

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What to watch for: Bengals at Redskins

What:Redskins vs. Bengals
Where:FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When:Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV:CBSAfter a triumphant opener in New Orleans, the Redskins didnt just stumble in St. Louis last week, they suffered a pair of significant injuries that could hamper them for the rest of the season.On Sunday, the Redskins (1-1) will get their first taste of life without two-time Pro Bowl selectionBrian Orakpoand defensive endAdam Carrikerin their home opener againstAndy Daltonand the Bengals (1-1).The defensive front seven was supposed to be the Redskins strength this season and Orakpo was supposed to lead the charge.Now its a major concern for a unit that yielded 31 points to the previously punchless Rams.The void left by Orakpo is so daunting, in fact, defensive coordinatorJim Haslettsaid he intends to use a trio of unproven reserves Rob Jackson,Chris WilsonandMarkus White in the hopes that three will equal one. None, however, has ever made an NFL start.In addition, the Redskins defense could be without starting cornerbackJosh Wilson(concussion) and strong safetyBrandon Meriweather(knee) against a Bengals offense that features a Pro Bowl quarterback-receiver tandem in Dalton andA.J. Green,plus running backBenJarvis Green-Ellis.Since the start of training camp, Coach Mike Shanahan has touted his teams improved depth.This weekend, well find out how much deeper the pool actually is.Injuries aside, there are a handful of other storylines the crew atwww.csnwashington.comwill be following: Among them:1) One unit that has been consistent for the Redskins thus far has been theRobert Griffin III-led the offense. It has racked up 40 and 28 points in the first two games and Griffin has been the talk of the league.Although the status of wide receiverPierre Garon(sore foot) remains unclear, Griffin could be primed for a big home debut against a Bengals defense that has struggled this far. In the first two games, in fact, Cincinnati that has yielded a total of 434.5 yards (30th) and 35.5 points on average (29th).2) Special teams remain a problem for the Redskins. A season after five field goals were knocked down, punterSav Roccapunts blocked in consecutive games. Both blocks, meantime, led directly to pivotal touchdowns for the opponent.This week, Shanahan professed confidence in special teams CoachDanny Smith, pointing out that players not scheme were to blame for both miscues. Either way, the unit must get turned around. And quick.3) How much will Griffin run the ball? Eyebrows were raised last week when the dual-threat rookie carried the ball 11 times for 82 yards totals that ranked just five and seven, respectively, behind running backAlfred Morris.Griffins ability to run for first downs, extend plays and make something out of nothing with his legs is a huge bonus for the Redskins. It could, however, prove to be an even greater risk.Although Griffin said hes well versed in how to avoid taking punishing hits, it should be pointed out that at least one last week appeared to stun him. On a 15-yard keeper up the middle in the second quarter, Griffin took a shot to the back of his helmet. One play later, he tossed arguably the worst pass of his fledgling NFL career, an off-balance, off-target throw that ended up in the hands of cornerbackCortland Finnegan.

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'Carlzner' pairing to reunite Wednesday in game against Boston

'Carlzner' pairing to reunite Wednesday in game against Boston

Head coach Barry Trotz has not been shy about shuffling his lineup...at least on offense. Aside from the occasional Taylor Chorney appearance, the defensive pairing have remained the same all season. That changed towards the end of Monday's game against Buffalo and it appears those new pairs will stick on Wednesday.

That, of course, means the return of 'Carlzner.'

"I don't think any of us care who we play with, but me and [John Carlson] had some pretty good years together," Karl Alzner said. "We've had a lot of good chemistry and a lot of fun playing together too. I think it'll be exciting just to give it another shot."

RELATED: Oshie set to return to Caps' lineup Wednesday

As the Caps host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, Carlson and Alzner will reunite as a defensive pair. Both players came into the NHL at about the same time and spent several seasons playing alongside one another before the additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik dramatically shifted the team's blue line.

Alzner began the season playing alongside Niskanen in what became an effective shutdown pair. A pair of Carlson and Dmitry Orlov, however, two of the more offensively skilled defensemen on the team, has struggled.

Carlson remains in search of his first goal of the season while Orlov is stuck on one. In an attempt to find a better compliment to their offensive skills, Trotz moved Orlov up with Niskanen and brought Alzner down to play with his former partner, thus reuniting the fan-favorite pairing.

"I think they're a good compliment," Trotz said. "I think [Alzner] is a good two-way defenseman, but his strength is probably little more, if you have to classify him, is a little more stay at home where Carly can do both, but he obviously gets up on the play and adds to the offense. We'll see how that works."

Despite playing with Niskanen for the first 24 games of the season, Alzner is not expecting it will take much to adjust to playing with Carlson again.

"We know what the plays are at all times and we all do them the same way," he said. "The only thing I'd say is just remembering the voice that you're listening for because that can be a little bit tricky. Certain guys kind of walk the line different and get themselves available in different ways and [Carlson's] definitely different that [Niskanen] in that sense.

"We've already kind of figured that out in practice. It doesn't take long."

Despite the Caps' recent struggles, Washington has played well defensively. The team currently ranks fifth in goals against per game (2.21) and sixth in shots against per game (28.2).

The decision to bring back the famed 'Carlzner' pair, however, seems to have less to do with the defense than it does with adding a spark to a team trying to get back on track after losing three of its last four.

Said Alzner, "We're all interested in just injecting some life into everything: The game right now, offensively, trying to score some more goals. If we could help each other do that, [Niskanen] and [Orlov] can help each other do that, then good."

MORE CAPITALS: 3 bold predictions: Tough Rask at hand

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T.J. Oshie set to return to Caps' lineup Wednesday night

T.J. Oshie set to return to Caps' lineup Wednesday night

T.J. Oshie will return to the Capitals’ lineup Wednesday night against the Bruins, Coach Barry Trotz confirmed.

The top line right missed the past seven games with a shoulder injury that he suffered Nov. 18.

Despite the nearly three-week absence, Oshie still ranks third on the Caps in goals with eight and is fourth in points with 12. 

RELATED: 3 BOLD PREDICTIONS: TOUGH RASK AT HAND

Based on the morning skate, Oshie will skate alongside center Nicklas Backstrom and left wing Marcus Johansson against Tuukka Rask and the surging Bruins. The 29-year-old will also reclaim his usual spot in the middle of the diamond on the first team power play.

Trotz said Oshie, who was sidelined 19 days, is returning “a little bit” earlier than expected.

“I depends on the individual,” Trotz said. “It depends on the healing process. It depends on how their body can handle the strain of being hurt and how it repairs itself."

Trotz added:  “Right now all indications are that Osh is ready to go. I have to trust our trainers and doctors and, more important, I have to trust the player. And the player feels like he’s ready to go.”

On Tuesday, Oshie was a full participant in practice for the first time since getting hurt. He went through contact drills and reported no aftereffects. He was full-go again Wednesday morning and afterward said he felt “great.”

The Capitals went 3-3-1 and averaged 2.14 goals per game while Oshie was sidelined.

MORE CAPITALS: OVECHKIN TRAILS CROSBY AFTER FIRST WEEK OF ALL-STAR VOTING