After waiting 17 months to play in a regular season game, patience is something Capitals defemseman Dmitry Orlov has reluctantly made part of his English vocabulary, and now, Capitals coach Bary Trotz is b being asked to do the same.
Sidelined all of last season with a wrist injury that required two surgeries and countless hours of rehabilitation, Orlov will play his fifth and final preseason tonight (5 p.m., CSN) when the New York Islanders visit Verizon Center.
“Dmitry is still catchup with his game,” Trotz said of the Caps’ 24-year-old blue liner. “He’s worked a lot with the coaching staff lately on just getting some reads because he’s trying to force some stuff too much. But it’s starting to come back. I think the more he plays the better he’s going to get.”
Orlov had a very active game on Friday night, delivering two big hits, blocking three shots and playing 1:34 on the power play.
“Every game I feel better on the ice,” Orlov said. “I worked with my wrist to handle the puck and right now I’m finding my game shape and where I need to be on the ice in game situations. I need to be patient and not try to do everything on the ice. If I wait, everything will come slowly.”
The Capitals took a calculated risk when they let veteran free-agent defenseman Mike Green sign with the Detroit Red Wings, placing their bets on Orlov making a full recovery from the wrist injury he suffered while playing for Russia in the 2014 World Championships.
As insurance, the Caps signed three defensemen with NHL experience – Taylor Chorney, Ryan Stanton and Aaron Ness – and one of them is expected to be on the Caps’ 23-man roster when it is submitted to the NHL on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Despite the strong play of Chorney, Stanton and Ness, the Caps plan on heading into the season with Orlov and 24-year-old Nate Schmidt as their third defense pairing.
“They both can get up the ice fairly well and they both can defend fairly well because of their skating ability,” Trotz said. “You want them to be part of the attack at the right time. They need to be very consistent in their play and they need to be a pair you can trust against other team’s bottom (lines) or the times they’re going to have to play against the top units.”
In 119 NHL games over parts of three seasons with the Caps, Orlov, who will play the right side, has six goals, 25 assists, 37 penalty minutes and a plus-5 rating. In 68 NHL games over parts of two seasons with the Caps Schmidt, who will play on the left, has three goals and seven assists 16 penalty minutes and a plus-2 rating.
Schmidt said it’s important that he and Orlov, who played together with the Hershey Bears, understand when to jump into the rush and when to retreat.
“We have a system in place that allows one guy in the rush,” Schmidt said. “If both guys are, we need to have some responsible forwards, I hope. … It’s a possession game. We don’t want to give up (the puck) unless we have to.”
Like Trotz, Schmidt says he believes the attributes Orlov can bring to the Capitals – his outlet passing, hard, accurate shot and open-ice hits among them - are well worth the wait.
“It’s not something you get back right away,” Schmidt said. “Even when he came back down in Hershey last year (for two games) you saw the flashes he had and it was like, ‘Man, he’s got a lot.’
“Your skating comes back and your hands come back. But it’s how fast your mind can process plays in a game. In practice it’s just a step slower. In games maybe the (decision) windows are smaller.”
With that in mind, Trotz told Orlov he would be playing in five of the Caps’ seven exhibition games.
“I said, ‘Yeah, thanks for that,’” Orlov said. “I’m happy to be back in and play five games. It’s good for me. I need to play in all situations before the season.”
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