It was sometime in mid-July when Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik grabbed a pitcher of water out of the fridge that he knew something was seriously wrong with his left wrist.
“It was a little worse that I thought it was,” Orpik said Monday after pushing himself through a conditioning skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “I tried to lie to myself, but it got to the point where I couldn’t pour a glass of water.
“I knew that if I can’t pour a glass of water I definitely can’t play hockey. I saw the doctor and he said, ‘If you don’t get this done you’ll get to the middle of the season and miss two-and-a-half months,’ and I definitely didn’t want to do that. I knew I was going to have to take care of it eventually.”
So, on July 28, Orpik underwent what the team called a “successful” surgery on his left wrist, one which came with a recovery period of 8-12 weeks. Tuesday marks seven weeks from his surgery and although he is not participating in scrimmages, Orpik said he’s ahead of schedule.
“I saw the doctor about 10 days ago and he said, ‘I don’t want you to go crazy here, but you’re definitely ahead of schedule in terms of how it looks and range of motion,’ ” Orpik said.
With fitness testing scheduled for Thursday and the start of training camp on Friday, Orpik, 34, said he hopes to shed his protective brace next week and play in at least one of the Caps’ seven exhibition game before the regular season opener on Oct. 10.
Orpik was a rock solid addition to the Caps’ top defense pairing last season, playing in 78 games alongside John Carlson while leading the team in hits (306) and finishing second behind Carlson in blocked shots (192). He recorded 19 assists but had no goals on 66 shots.
Orpik said he does not remember how he injured his wrist, which as a left-handed shot is the bottom hand on his stick, but said it affected his ability to shoot and required a cortisone injection during the playoffs.
It was after the cortisone wore off that Orpik realized he might need surgery.
“It’s frustrating because you get people asking why I waited until the end of July,” Orpik said. “People think we’re just kind of robots and if something doesn’t work you fix it. Surgery is always your last option, your last resort, and you try to avoid it all costs.”