During morning skate on Tuesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Caps fans saw someone on the ice they hadn’t seen December 7: Brooks Orpik. The last time that Orpik played was during the 1-0 loss in Detroit on November 10.
Orpik did return to practice a couple of weeks later to workout with the team on November 30 but on December 7th, he left practice early. It was an unspecified lower body injury, which set him back longer than the team anticipated.
Orpik’s first season in Washington was last year and he was a key player on the Caps blue line. He ranked third in the NHL in hits with 306 and was fourth in the league in blocked shots with 192 which contributed to the Caps ranking sixth in goals against, a big improvement from ranking 22nd in that category the year before. Picking up Orpik from the Penguins during that offseason was one of many reasons why the Caps became a better defensive team.
Prior to Tuesday, Orpik had been working out with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish. After practice, Orpik told Washington Post reporter Isabelle Khurshudyan that it was hard to tell if the bone was completely healed but “it feels like it.”
In November, Orpik thought he could play through the injury but when he got reinjured again, he decided to shut down for a bit and not rush anything. His bone needed eight weeks to heal.
Orpik skated before the team’s practice today at Kettler. Marcus Johansson and Jay Beagle were with him on the ice. There is still no timetable as when Orpik will return to the lineup.
Orpik said skating with Mark Nemish before practice is harder than practice. Yeah, looks like it.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) February 3, 2016
Even though Orpik hasn’t played much this year the team is ranked first in goals against (109). However, having dropped two tough losses on home ice, the Caps could certainly use Orpik’s presence on the blue line. Now that he is getting his reps on the ice, hopefully he can return to action sooner rather than later. Having won a cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, the Caps could use Orpik’s experience on the team this postseason, in addition to Justin Williams and Mike Richards, to get them over the hump.
By Michael Marzzacco