More than three months after suffering a lower body injury that he described as a broken bone, Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik is nearing a return from a three-month absence. But it won’t be tonight.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz told reporters in Dallas Saturday that Orpik, 35, will not play against the fleet-footed Stars, who have scored more goals this season than any team in the NHL.
Instead, Orpik is more likely to make his first appearance since Nov. 10 when the Los Angeles Kings visit Verizon Center on Tuesday night.
Tonight marks the 40th straight game Orpik will miss because of his injury. The Caps are 30-5-4 without him in the lineup.
The good news for the Caps is that center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who leads the Caps with 43 points in 53 games, is expected to remain in the lineup after leaving Tuesday night’s game in Minnesota with an apparent head injury.
Been a long time: The Caps have lost eight straight games to the Stars and haven’t beaten them since …
“October 25, 2008,” Trotz told reporters. “Yeah, we'll mention it. I think it's important. Anything that's been a roadblock, anything that's been something that people have told us you haven't done, that's something that we want to get out of the way and we want something else. It'll be part of what we talk about."
Between the pipes: Braden Holtby (35-5-3, 2.10 GAA, .927 SP) will make his sixth start in 10 days, but don’t be surprised to see Philipp Grubauer starting for the Caps on Tuesday against the Kings or Thursday against the Islanders. Kari Lehtonen (15-5-0, 2.79, .912) makes his third straight start for the Stars. He’s stopped 81 shots in his last to appearances, both victories.
Galiev in, Latta out: Looking for more speed against the Stars, Trotz will replace fourth-line right wing Michael Latta with Stan Galiev on a line with center Mike Richards and left wing Brooks Laich.
Chasing Marty: Holtby is three wins ahead of the pace Marty Brodeur was on when he set the NHL record with 48 wins in 2006-07. Through the Devils’ first 53 games that season Brodeur was 32-14-5 with nine shutouts, a 2.08 GAA and .926 save percentage.
Star struck: Jamie Benn is tied for second in the NHL with 62 points. John Klingberg’s 46 points are tied for second among NHL defensemen. Former Caps prospect Cody Eakin, who was involved in the trade that brought Mike Ribeiro to the Caps, has 10 goals and 13 assists in 55 games.
Saturday night fever: The Caps are 10-1-2 on Saturdays this season, outscoring opponents 42-29 in those games. Holtby has posted a 37-12-7 record with eight shutouts, a 2.14 GAA and a .927 SP in his career on Saturdays.
Kuz control: Evgeny Kuznetsov has 17 points in his last 12 games (2 goals, 15 assists). Kuznetsov leads the NHL in primary assists (32). He’s also third in plus/minus (plus-24).
Here are projected lineups:
Braden Holtby (starter) - Philipp Grubauer
Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers
Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn
Kari Lehtonen (starter) - Antti Niemi
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