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.