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Orpik leaves Caps practice; will be re-evaluated


Orpik leaves Caps practice; will be re-evaluated

With defenseman Karl Alzner (upper body) and left winger Marcus Johansson (lower body) unavailable for Monday’s practice and questionable for Tuesday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Capitals could ill afford to see Brooks Orpik storm off the ice in frustration less than 10 minutes into the team’s hour-long workout.

Orpik, 35, has been sidelined since Nov. 10 with a lower body injury.  

“Obviously, he was a little frustrated,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s just not coming around the way he wanted. We’re not going to hurry him, as I’ve already said. He’s going back to have some more tests done for a little bit of peace of mind. We’ve just got to make sure we’re doing all the right things.

“He’s gotten some rest and he’s skated some and he’s had some good days and some bad days, but it’s not coming around as cleanly as it should for us and for him. He’s too valuable. You know what kind of battler he is. He’s an all-in guy and he’s too valuable to our team to risk that.”

While Orpik will sit out his 12th straight game on Tuesday, Alzner could have his 401-game playing streak halted with an upper body injury sustained in Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss in Winnipeg. The last time Alzner missed a game due to injury was after he injure his hand in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 28, 2008.

Trotz said he would probably know Tuesday morning whether or not Alzner and Johansson will be available to play against the Red Wings.

If Alzner cannot play, look for Aaron Ness to take his roster spot on a third defense pairing with Taylor Chorney. That would move Dmitry Orlov up into Alzner’s spot on a second defense pairing alongside Matt Niskanen.

Ness, a left-shooting, 5-foot-10, 187-pounder from Roseau, Minn., has played in 29 career NHL games with the New York Islanders, but none since the 2013-14 season.

“I’ve done it before,” Ness said. “It’s not my first time. I just want to stick to what I do and see how it goes.”


Signed by the Caps as a free agent last summer Ness’ greatest attribute is his speed and overall skating ability.

“He’s a terrific skater,” said Niskanen, a fellow Minnesotan. “He’s been a pro player for a while now so he’s got some experience. He’s got a good sense for the game and he skates very well. He’s been called up and down a lot, so he knows what to expect. I’m not worried about him. He’ll be a good player for us.”

In 21 games with Hershey Ness has no goals and nine assists. Trotz said the decision to recall a defenseman came down to Ness and Connor Carrick, who has five goals and seven assists in 23 games for the Bears.

“Ness was just a little bit better,” Trotz said. “And he was one of the last cuts (in training camp). It made a lot of sense. He left here in a good state of mind, went down to Hershey and has played really consistent and he gets rewarded.”

As for Alzner possibly having his games played streak ended – he was a healthy scratch for the Caps’ season finale of the 2009-10 season -- Trotz said Alzner is battling “two little ailments.”

 “He’s been a rock for us since I’ve been here,” Trotz said. “He’s one of those calm and steady forces and you know what you’re going to get with Karl. To me he’s one of those unsung heroes that doesn’t get enough recognition.”

Trotz said he has a message for the six healthy defensemen who will be in the lineup Tuesday night against the Red Wings.

“Step up,” he said. “Everybody wants opportunities and right now some guys are really taking advantage of that opportunity. You’ve got to elevate your game. If you don’t, when people get back you move down.”

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Game 73 Capitals vs. Stars Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 73 Capitals vs. Stars Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Dallas Stars

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Stars will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Stars game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals (41-24-7) take on the Stars (38-27-8) Tuesday, March 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.


The Capitals-Stars game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Stars
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Islanders game:

Alex Ovechkin -  Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny - Jakub Jerabek

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Brooks Orpik (lower body injury)


The Capitals-Flyers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?


Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”