Photo credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
It wasn’t a big surprise when Capitals Head Coach Todd Reirden announced yesterday that veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik would sit out tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. Orpik played just 10 minutes and change against the Calgary Flames last week and is now considered “day-to-day,” with a lower body injury. And according to the Caps’ bench boss, Orpik isn’t the only one feeling less than perfect.
The surprise came when Reirden said that like Orpik, none of the team’s players are ” at 100 percent.” He didn’t clarify which, if any, other players might be injured during the interview but this is a concerning statement given the dramatic increase in the number of games the team will play this month.
During the month of November the Capitals will play 15 games in 30 days. That’s a game every other day plus a ton of traveling. They will also be competing with many of the league’s best teams including Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, Colorado, and Minnesota. All of these teams are listed in ESPN’s recent Top 10 NHL Power Rankings.
The good news is that forward Travis Boyd has been medically cleared but the team decided it would be best for him to get some practice in Hershey at the American Hockey League level before returning to the lineup next week. Reirden hopes this will allow Boyd to return to the team in the best possible condition. Also, Boyd will not have to clear waivers because the move is considered a “conditioning loan” which allows NHL players to have a stint with a minor league club as long as it doesn’t extend over 14 consecutive days.
Orpik’s time out will also give second-year defenseman Madison Bowey, who has played only three games so far this season, an opportunity to get back into the lineup. Bowey told Isabelle Khurshudyan of The Washington Post, “I want to be in the lineup every night and in order to do that I’ve got to play with that competitive nature and with urgency and make sure I’m consistent in my play.”
To be successful this month the Capitals are going to need all their best players in the lineup every night but Reirden’s statement calls into question whether that will ultimately be attainable.
By Charlie DiPasquale