PITTSBURGH -- Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik has been suspended three games for his shoulder-on-chin hit on Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta in Saturday night’s 2-1 playoff loss at Verizon Center, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Sunday.
Orpik will miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the second-round playoff series, which resumes Monday night at Consol Energy Center.
“Brooks is a key part for us on the penalty kill but we finished second in the regular season with missing Brooks for 40 games,” Capitals left wing Daniel Winnik said before the suspension was announced.
“We’ve got guys that can fill his role. Who knows what’s going to happen for him, but I’m sure everyone is planning for him to not be in the lineup.”
Maatta, who suffered an apparent concussion on the play, was being evaluated on Sunday. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he is unlikely to play on Monday.
Orpik’s hearing occurred at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, shortly after the Capitals arrived at their hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. It is the first suspension for Orpik since he was suspended three games in 2006 for checking Carolina’s Erik Cole from behind. He also received a one-game suspension in 2003.
"Orpy's an honest hockey player,” Capitals left wing Marcus Johansson said Sunday from the team’s hotel. “He plays tough and hard and honest, I think. You know, sometimes stuff happens, I guess."
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Orpik, 35, has played in five of the Capitals’ eight playoff games and has no points, a minus-3 rating and six penalty minutes while averaging 20:15 of ice time a game, including 1:45 per game on the penalty kill.
The Capitals have the option of replacing Orpik with 28-year-old veteran Mike Weber or 24-year-old Dmitry Orlov. Weber, who played in Game 6 against the Flyers in Round 1, seems more likely because of his ability to kill penalties. Orlov played in all 82 regular season games and the first seven games of the playoffs before he was made a healthy scratch in Game 2 against the Penguins. Orlov was on the ice for a goal by Penguins defneseman Ben Lovejoy midway through Game 1 and saw just one shift the rest of the game.
Taylor Chorney replaced Orlov in Game 2 and logged 10:10 of ice time, including 40 seconds on the penalty kill. In three playoff games Chorney has averaged 11:40 of ice time and is a minus-1 with two minor penalties.
If Maatta cannot play, the Penguins may choose between Justin Schultz and Derrick Pouliot. Schultz, 25, has just one game of NHL playoff experience, logging just 5:52 of ice time in Game 1 against the Rangers on April 13. Pouliot, 22, has just 56 games of NHL experience and has never played in a Stanley Cup playoff game.
"We have a couple of guys that are with us right now that are good players that have helped us win," Sullivan said. "The coaching staff is going to decide which guy we put in there that we think is the best to help us win."
Schultz played in the Pens’ final 18 games of the regular season and appears the most likely to replace Maatta.
"Justin's another puck mover," Sullivan said. "He's a guy that can help us get out of our end zone. He has a real good shot. He can join the rush. He can play on the power play. So, he has the ability to help us in a lot of areas.
"I really like his shooting ability. He has a great one-timer. He can help us in that regard, but once again, he's another guy that we could put in the lineup that's a real good puck mover that can make that first pass and help us get out of our end zone."
Whoever replaces Maatta, look for veteran Trevor Daley to be paired with Kris Letang on the Penguins’ top defensive unit.
Letang logged a game-high 34:02 of ice time in Game 1 and 35:22 in Game 2 and was back on the ice for the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday in nearby Cranberry Twp.
“He’s a freak,” Lovejoy said after Saturday night’s game.
“We are so lucky to have a guy like him. He was able to absorb basically all of Olli’s minutes tonight. He was the best player on the ice, like he’s been since Christmas time.”
Caps left wing Daniel Winnik said the Caps made it too easy on Letang in Game 2, allowing him to break out of his own zone without enough physical consequence. That, Winnik said, must change in Game 3 Monday night.
“When you have a chance to dump the puck in you want to try to put it in his corner,” Winnik said. “I don’t think that’s a secret throughout the NHL. You see it with a lot of top defensemen. We try to make them work as much as we can. Last night I don’t think we did a good job of that as a forward group. I didn’t think we spent enough time in the (offensive) zone. That’s pretty evident with the shots on net (35-24 in favor of Pittsburgh). If we do that he probably can’t play 35 minutes. We made it an easy game for him last night.”
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