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

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USA TODAY Sports

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."

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