Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik boarded a flight to Detroit with the rest of his teammates on Tuesday, but coach Barry Trotz was noncommittal when asked if his 35-year-old veteran would be in the lineup Wednesday night against the Red Wings (8 p.m., NBCSN).
“I honestly can’t answer that,” Trotz said. “He’s really close. We’re just letting the injury settle down. That will really be determined how he feels (on Wednesday) and the next day.”
Orpik has not skated since suffering a lower body injury in the Caps’ last visit to Detroit one week ago. Without the benefit of a practice, and with the Capitals returning home to face the Dallas Stars on Thursday, the Caps could keep Orpik out of the lineup one more game.
“Right now, to be honest with you, if someone went down in the morning skate he would play and it wouldn’t be any problem,” Trotz said.
If Orpik cannot play, Nate Schmidt, 24, is likely to remain on a top unit with John Carlson. Schmidt has averaged just over 18 minutes of ice time in Orpik’s absence and has been even on the plus-minus ledger with one shot.
“I think he’s done fairly well,” Trtoz said. “Some games better than others, which is natural for a player who moves up and has to adjust his minutes.”
Trotz noted that since the arrival of Orpik, Carlson, 25, has had the benefit of a steady veteran influence on his left side. Now, Carlson is being asked to be that same veteran influence for Schmidt.
“He’s probably in that tutoring mode,” Trotz said. “Brooks is more of a stay-at-home, defending type of physical defenseman and Schmitty is more using his legs and jumping up in the play, more similar to Carly, so they just have to read off each other a little bit better.”