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Brooks Orpik sighting at Kettler Capitals Iceplex

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Brooks Orpik sighting at Kettler Capitals Iceplex

Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, sidelined since Nov. 10 with a lower body injury, skated for the first time since Dec. 7 this morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. He was joined in the pre-practice skate by defenseman John Carlson (lower body) and center Jay Beagle (hand surgery).

While the Capitals were in New York last week, general manager Brian MacLellan said he expected Orpik to return to the ice this week. He also said he was confident Orpik would be available for game action long before the NHL’s Feb. 29 trade deadline and that he was not pursuing a defenseman that could potentially replace Orpik.

Orpik was injured in a 1-0 loss in Detroit on Nov. 10 and has missed the past 28 games. He tried skating a few times before he left the ice in a fit of frustration on Dec. 7. It is unclear whether Orpik re-injured himself or was simply upset at the lack of progress he’d made in the previous four weeks.

According to Capitals coach Barry Trotz, Orpik visited with a specialist in Boston last week and was given assurances that his recovery was going well.

Carlson was injured in the Caps’ 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 26 and has missed the past eight games. Carlson has been skating on his own since Jan. 4.

“He hasn’t practiced with us, so he’s a ways away yet,” Trotz said on Tuesday, confirming Carlson will not play Thursday night when the Vancouver Canucks visit Verizon Center (6:30, CSN).

The Capitals hold a comfortable 16-point lead over the New York Rangers and New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division standings, but Trotz said he is not using that cushion to allow Orpik and Carlson extra time to heal.

“Not really,” Trotz said. “We try to do what’s best for the players in terms of when they’re ready and when they feel they can help. If they feel they can’t help, they don’t participate. I don’t think our record has anything to do with it.”

Beagle underwent hand surgery on Jan. 2 and is expected to be sidelined until mid-February.

RELATED: Richards hoping offseason training pays off

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!