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Carlson scores in return from 36-game absence as Caps rout Blackhawks

John McCreary / National Hockey League / Getty

The Washington Capitals got a big boost to their blue line Thursday as No. 1 defenseman John Carlson returned to the lineup against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Carlson had an immediate impact, scoring a third-period goal and adding an assist in Washington's 6-1 drubbing of Chicago.

Despite getting on the scoresheet a couple of times, Carlson said he wasn't overly thrilled with his performance and had a lot of nerves to overcome in his first game since December.

"Probably better than I thought but still not very good," Carlson said of his return, according to Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic.

"I haven't been nervous like that in a long time, so it was nice to work through that," he added.

Carlson missed the previous 36 games. He suffered a skull fracture and a severed temporal artery after taking a slap shot to the head against the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 23. Carlson said Sunday that it felt like he got "struck by lightning."

Following the win, the Capitals now sit four points out of a playoff spot with nine games left in the campaign. MoneyPuck gave them a 0.3% chance of reaching the postseason entering Thursday's play.

Carlson recorded eight goals and 13 assists in 30 games this season prior to the injury. Washington's blue line now looks much different than the last time he suited up, as Dmitry Orlov and Erik Gustafsson were shipped off at the deadline while Rasmus Sandin was acquired.

The Capitals also got back goaltender Darcy Kuemper and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk against the Blackhawks. Kuemper missed two contests with an upper-body injury, while van Riemsdyk was absent for one game due to the birth of his child.

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