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Are Backstrom, Orpik nearing return to Caps?


Are Backstrom, Orpik nearing return to Caps?

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (hip surgery) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (wrist surgery) could be cleared for non-contact practices in the next day or two, Capitals coach Barry Trotz said on Tuesday.

“I don’t have the authority to make that decision, but it looks like it’s getting closer to that,” Trotz said. “Backy has been skating very well in controlled conditions and once you get into practice you’ve got to avoid people a little bit and we have to see how he reacts to that.”

Backstrom, 27 underwent hip surgery on May 27 and has been skating under the direction of Capitals strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish for the past three weeks. He has said his progress is going well and will return only when he is 100 percent healthy.

Orpik, 35, underwent wrist surgery on July 28 and has begun taking light shots. Trotz said he hoped for Orpik to play in at least one preseason game, but if Backstrom and Orpik do not begin practicing until Friday (the team is off on Thursday) the chances of either of them playing Friday against the Bruins or Sunday against the Islanders are minimal.

The Caps open the regular season on Oct. 10 at home against the New Jersey Devils.

In other injury news, forward Chris Brown is expected to be sidelined the next few weeks with a hand injury. Brown was competing for the role of 13th forward for the Caps. He had no points in two preseason games.

Meanwhile, Trotz said forwards Marcus Johansson (back) and Michael Latta (lower body) are expected to return to the lineup Wednesday night when the Caps visit the Carolina Hurricanes in their fifth of seven preseason games. Trotz said Latta “is fine” and Johansson “should be fine,” but team will bring an extra forward and defenseman to Raleigh just in case.

Brown’s injury, combined with Backstrom’s possible return, could throw a wrench into the Caps’ ability to sign Derek Roy. Because Brown was injured during training camp and spent 42 days on the Caps’ roster last season, a portion of his $575,000 NHL salary will count against the Capitals’ salary cap.

According to, the Caps are currently $236,541 under the salary cap.

The team would add another $950,000 to that salary space if they decide to assign Justin Peters to Hershey, which, theoretically, would give them enough cap room to sign Roy.

“We have limited cap space,” Trotz said, “and as you get closer to the trade deadline, $600,000 in cap space is worth $1.8 (million, prorated) because of the number of days left (in the season). As coaches, we want to win today. As management, you look at the big picture. That will be a decision based on communication and understanding. But we’re not quite there yet.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps send defenseman to Hershey, await 10 more cuts

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line


Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.


PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."