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Orpik appears ready for Caps opener, but what about Orlov?

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Orpik appears ready for Caps opener, but what about Orlov?

Brooks Orpik did not come right out and say it, but if the defense pairings at Friday’s practice were any indication, he’ll be in the lineup when the Capitals open the 2015-16 regular season Saturday night at Verizon Center against the New Jersey Devils (6 p.m. pregame, CSN).

Sidelined the entire preseason following July 28 wrist surgery, Orpik skated alongside John Carlson on the Caps’ top pairing on Friday. Caps coach Barry Trotz said, “I would say he’s a go,” adding he will wait until after Saturday’s morning skate for a more definitive answer.   

“You’ve got to get your feet wet and do it eventually,” Orpik said. “You try to keep it a little more simple than you normally do to get back in that rhythm. It feels a lot better than last year. It was kind of one of those things where you try to manage it during the year and address it in the offseason.”

Who suits up as the Capitals’ sixth defenseman on Saturday night remains a mystery. Taylor Chorney, 28, and Dmitry Orlov 24, each took turns with Nate Schmidt on the Caps’ third defense pairing and neither knew on Friday if he would be in the lineup against the Devils.

On Thursday Trotz said he thought Orlov, who missed all of last season with a fractured wrist, needed more work on the real-time decision making he exhibited during his five preseason games and that Chorney, whom the Caps signed on July 1, had outplayed a few other defensemen in training camp.  

“I missed last year and I used the five preseason games to get into game shape,” Orlov said. “Everyone wants to play and everyone wants this to be a Cup team. We’ll see what the decision is and of course if I play I will try to play every game hard and enjoy it and learn.”

It will be interesting to see how much patience Trotz will have in integrating Orlov back into the lineup, especially knowing he has a reliable safety valve in Chorney, who has played 400 of his 468 pro games in the AHL.

“I had some things to prove and I think I did a pretty good job overall showing I can be a reliable player and they can trust me in a lot of different situations,” Chorney said.

“I don’t know either way (about Saturday’s lineup) and honestly, there are probably going to be a lot of times when I’m not going to be totally sure until the day of the game. Regardless, I’m thankful for the opportunity and throughout the course of the season I’m going to get my chance to be able to prove myself.”

Here’s a look at how the Capitals looked at practice on Friday and how they’ll probably look on Saturday night:

Forward Lines

Alex Ovcechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson – Andre Burakovsky – Justin Williams

Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich – Michael Latta – Sean Collins

Extra: Stanislav Galiev

Injured: Nicklas Backstrom (hip), Chris Brown (hand)

Defense Pairings

Brooks Orpik – John Carlson

Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen

Nate Schmidt – Dmitry Orlov/Taylor Chorney

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby –Philipp Grubauer 

[RELATED: Can Capitals win the Eastern Conference?]

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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!