PHILADELPHIA — After Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik was checked cleanly into the glass by Philadelphia Flyers forward Ryan White at 11:56 of the second period on Monday, he needed help from trainer Greg Smith and teammate John Carlson to get up and off the ice.
Looking dazed and unable to skate off under his own power, Orpik made his way to the dressing room and did not return to the Capitals’ 6-1 victory, which gave Washington a 3-0 series lead.
The team announced that Orpik had an upper-body injury, and that he would be evaluated on Tuesday. Capitals head coach Barry Trotz refused to further elaborate on the injury or Orpik's status for the rest of the series.
While losing Orpik would be tough for a Capitals team that depends heavily on its top four blueliners, Washington spent a large portion of the regular season without him already.
During a November 10 loss to the Florida Panthers, Orpik sustained what the Capitals, a team with a policy of not disclosing specific ailments, called a lower-body injury. Though Orpik didn’t need surgery, he could not skate for five weeks, and missed 40 games, during which the team went 30-6-4.
“We did it [playing without Orpik] for quite a long time actually,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “We’ll see where he’s at. I don’t know, I haven’t talked to him. But Taylor Chorney’s played really well for us. Our team has a lot of confidence in him and Mike Weber’s been around a long time. He plays a similar style as Brooks, a good veteran, a good teammate, he’s fit in really well. We’ll see what happens.”
Weber, a veteran of nine NHL seasons, has seven playoff games to his credit, all with the Buffalo Sabres in 2010-11. Chorney, who was skated for five teams over the course of his professional career, suited up for five games with Penguins during their postseason run last year.
Prior to this season, Orpik had been relatively durable, playing in at least 63 games in each non-lockout season since his first full go-round in 2003-04.
If Trotz has to play a lineup without Orpik on Wednesday night in Game 4, he will likely have to lean on the third line defensive pair of Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt. The pair saw more ice time after Orpik’s exit, Niskanen (26 minutes) and Karl Alzer (22 minutes) picked up the majority of the slack.
Whoever gets the call to Trotz’s blue line, they'll need to steel themselves beforehand. The series has already proven to be a physical affair, with Orpik’s injury being the latest after the Flyers lost forward Sean Couturier for the series after a hit from Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin in Game 1, while Orlov received treatment on the Washington bench after getting checked into the endboards from behind by Philadelphia forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.