Quick Links

Caps' Brooks Orpik misses practice Monday

Caps' Brooks Orpik misses practice Monday

Brooks Orpik was not on the ice for practice Monday as the veteran defenseman took a “maintenance day”, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said.

Trotz called Orpik  “probable” for Tuesday’s home game against the surging Flames, who are 12-1-0 in their last 13 games.

“Just a maintenance day,” Trotz said. “We’ll see where he is tomorrow. Felt much better. Just got bumped up in [Tampa on Saturday night]. We gave him a maintenance day; he was thinking about coming out [to practice]. [We thought] a maintenance day would do him a lot more good.”

RELATED: OSHIE TRIES TO REMAIN FOCUSED EVEN IN CONTRACT YEAR

Trotz said Orpik will take the morning skate and then the player and coach will decide together whether the rugged blue liner is healthy enough to suit up against Calgary.

Orpik missed three games last month due to an infection in his leg.

Trotz also acknowledged that he has contemplated sitting the 36-year-old as the postseason approaches. But Trotz added that he’ll allow Orpik to make the decision.   

“He takes care of himself better than anybody on our club when it comes to fitness and what he puts in his body and how he trains and how he prepares for games,” Trotz said. “I don’t think there’s anybody who matches him in that.”

Orpik’s ice time per game this season—17:47—is down almost two minutes from his average a year ago and down about four minutes from 2014-15, his first season in Washington.

If Orpik does not play against Calgary, Trotz would turn to Nate Schmidt or Taylor Chorney. Trotz had a lengthy talk with Schmidt on the ice following practice, explaining later that he was “making sure he’s not discouraged” about his recently reduced role.

“We’ve got some depth on defense,” Trotz said. “Not really in Brooks’ size and physicality and all that. So our options are a little different.”

MORE CAPITALS: UPDATED NHL POWER RANKING

Quick Links

3 bold predictions: Washington faces Coyotes team with nothing to lose

3 bold predictions: Washington faces Coyotes team with nothing to lose

The Caps need two points against the Arizona Coyotes (7 p.m., CSN Plus), but will they come ready to play against a scuffling team? Here are three bold predictions for the game.

1. Washington will not lead after the first period

Barry Trotz knows what’s at stake in this game. He also knows that “readiness” might be a problem. The Caps are coming off of what was their biggest game of the season on Thursday against Columbus. A Saturday game in late March against one of the worst teams in the NHL may be hard for the Caps to get up for. From the Coyotes’ point of view, they have a chance to prove themselves against one of the top teams in the NHL. They will put a scare in Washington for at least one period.

RELATED: In a tight Metro race, Trotz declares last 9 games 'all must-wins'

2. Braden Holtby will allow one goal or fewer

Hockey is too random to call for shutouts, but take a look at Arizona’s roster and tell me who Braden Holtby should be worried about. I t will fall on Radim Vrbata, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tobias Rieder, Alex Goligoski and Max Domi to generate some goals for the NHL's 27th ranked offense that will also be without captain Shane Doan on Saturday. Look, those players aren’t scrubs, there’s some talent on this roster than can score if teams don’t take them seriously. Considering, however, that Braden Holtby was able to limit Columbus to one goal and Calgary to two earlier in the week, Arizona will need a lot of pucks to bounce their way to get two past Holtby on Saturday.

3. Both teams will combine for fewer than five power plays

Arizona has not generated more than two power plays in a game in each of their last four. Against Florida on Thursday, they didn’t get a single opportunity. In that same four-game stretch, they have only given up seven total power plays. Washington has been playing a disciplined game of late with only five penalty kills in their last four games. Arizona and Washington aren’t two teams with a lot of history and there’s no reason to think this will become a physical, chippy game. Both teams will stay disciplined and special teams won't be a major factor on Saturday.

MORE CAPITALS: Q&A: Is there there a double standard for Sidney Crosby?

Quick Links

In a tight division race, Barry Trotz declares last 9 games 'all must-wins' for Caps

In a tight division race, Barry Trotz declares last 9 games 'all must-wins' for Caps

Saturday’s game features two teams at the opposite end of the standings. The Washington Capitals have their sights set squarely on the Stanley Cup as the top team in the NHL. With only 63 points, the Arizona Coyotes have their sights set squarely on the golf course as their season will soon be over.

After the Caps played in arguably their biggest game of the season on Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, you could forgive the fans for overlooking Saturday’s contest against the scuffling Coyotes.

Barry Trotz, however, is not.

“Looking at all nine of these games, until we can secure our spot that we would like, they're all must-wins,” Trotz said after Saturday’s morning skate. “I can't tell you one that would not be.”

RELATED: Q&A: Is there there a double standard for Sidney Crosby?

Washington is in the midst of a three-team battle for supremacy of the Metropolitan Division. Losing means a difficult first-round matchup against either the Columbus or the Pittsburgh Penguins. To win that race, the Caps will need all the points they can get.

That means there’s a lot more at stake in a Washington-Arizona game than one might think. The challenge is conveying that to the players.

“These ones, when you're playing a team that you feel is young and maybe not as experienced, you worry about the readiness,” Trotz said. “But I think we recognize the situation. It will be on the players. We're going to give them a real good scout on Arizona. We're going to put the team on the ice to play Arizona and play them hard and respect them and that will be our message. Go after them.”

Washington holds only a one-point and three-point lead over Pittsburgh and Columbus in the standings, respectively. They hold a game in hand over the Penguins while Columbus will play the Philadelphia Flyers earlier on Saturday.

A game against the Coyotes may not be the sexiest matchup for a team that has already qualified for the playoffs, but if the Caps hope to finish atop the Metro, they cannot afford to leave two points on the table at home against an Arizona team with only one win in its last four games.

Said Trotz, “We have no room to let anybody steal any points in our arena at any time right now.”

MORE CAPITALS: Justin Williams asks Twitter for picture day hair advice