Brooks Orpik participated in his first practice with the Capitals since leaving the lineup with a lower body injury on Nov. 10, but Capitals coach Barry Trotz says the 35-year-old defenseman is “very doubtful” for Thursday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.
“It’s not coming around really quick but it’s not something I would say we have to worry about long-term,” Trotz said. “If he had to play today he could play. But we’re trying to get this settled down. Every time he seems to get settled down it jumps up. We don’t want that. We want it to totally settle down.”
Asked if surgery is an option for Orpik, Trotz was emphatic with his response.
“Oh, no,” he said. “Not at all. Definitely 100 percent no surgery.”
Orpik participated in skating and shooting drills on Monday but did not take part in 2-on-2 battle drills. Since the Caps visit the Canadiens on Thursday and the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday it’s entirely possible Orpik’s return to the lineup may not be until Dec. 8 when Mike Green and the Detroit Red Wings visit Verizon Center.
“I think we’re getting close,” Trotz said. “I think he’s feeling better.”
The Capitals are 7-1-1 during Orpik’s nine-game absence. During that time, Nate Schmidt has played in Orpik’s spot alongside John Carlson on the Caps’ top defense pairing. Taylor Chorney has filled in for Schmidt on a third pairing with Dmitry Orlov.
“Everybody has stepped up and realized we’re missing a good player but at the same time everybody’s taking a “next-man-up” attitude.
Trotz said he misses having a veteran like Orpik on the ice.
“We miss him in practice because if someone makes a bad pass he’s on that guy,” Trotz said. “A young guy might say, ‘Well, I just missed a pass.’ He’ll be like, ‘It’s not OK.’ He’ll let them know in a quiet way. It’ll be a little tap on the pads. ‘You have to make that pass.’
“I’ll be on the other side losing my mind screaming and they still won’t make the pass. But if a veteran player goes, ‘You need to make that pass’ sometimes it has a bigger impact. They’re exactly what you want for your culture because they don’t accept average.”
Trotz on Holtby: Trotz said any pressures that Braden Holtby felt when he signed a five-year, $30.5 million contract have been addressed with his hard work in getting off to a 15-4-0 record and his current seven-game win streak.
“The way he finished (last season) and the way he is right now is the same guy,” Trotz said. “I don’t think he changed his routine. Nothing really affects him. I think he’s mentally tough.
“I think he understands he’s put in the hard work and hard work is what’s going to keep him as a top goaltender and maybe take him to the next level. I know how hard he works with Mitch (Korn) and how hard Mitch pushes the goalies. He likes the workload.”
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