- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

PHILADELPHIA — If it were any other game, perhaps one in late October or one being played down the stretch, Karl Alzner would have charged into the left corner, leapt into Evgeny Kuznetsov’s waiting arms and reared back with excitement.

Instead, the Washington Capitals defenseman approached Kuznetsov, whose own personal muted goal celebration ended near the goal line, and joined his teammates in an exchange of fist bumps and high-fives.

Remaining composed and unflappable is one of Alzner’s objectives this postseason, understanding that even a brief expense of energy could leave him unnecessarily spent as he plays greater minutes and, potentially, additional games in the postseason.

It’s also a tactic that he believes will prepare him better for the exact circumstance he will face on Wednesday night.

Brooks Orpik, one of the Capitals‘ top-pair defensemen, will not play in Game 4 of the first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers, owing to a hit he took in the second period of Washington’s 6-1 victory on Monday.

That means the Capitals will have to turn to either Mike Weber or Taylor Chorney, neither of whom have appeared in the first three playoff games, to stabilize their back end.

It also likely means that Alzner, Matt Niskanen and John Carlson will see their workloads increase as the Capitals try to sweep the Flyers in the best-of-seven series.

“We just have to play strong, tough, physical and responsible,” Alzner said. “I mean, that’s what [Orpik] does every time he’s out there, so that’s how we’ll have to do it. Guys have done it for big chunks already of the season, so obviously, a huge piece of the team [is missing], but we have a lot of depth, I think.”

Orpik was hit by Flyers left wing Ryan White at 11:56 of the second period, making contact with the half boards before falling to his hands and knees. He remained on the ice for some time before Carlson and athletic trainer Greg Smith lifted him to his feet, then helped him to the bench and down the tunnel leading to the dressing room.

Coach Barry Trotz said after Tuesday’s practice that Orpik would not play on Wednesday and that his health will be monitored each day. He did not elaborate on Orpik’s status and did not share the nature of his injury, with the team only announcing during the game on Monday that the defenseman had sustained an upper-body injury.

Brooks will miss this next game and we’ll see where it is,” Trotz said.

Orpik missed 40 games during the season after breaking a bone in one of his legs on Nov. 10 and returned on Feb. 16 for a game against the Los Angeles Kings. Compounding the issue at the time was the subsequent loss of Carlson because of an ankle injury; all told, the two players missed a dozen games together, and Washington was without at least one of them for 54 games.

“We’ll just have to make it work,” Carlson said. “He’s been out [and] I’ve been out this season for extended periods of time and you know, the guys that stepped up are great hockey players. We’re all confident in them. They were, I think — our backbone of success this year was just people who stepped up when guys go down or get injured or whatever and have played awesome hockey for us, so if that’s the case, we’ll be looking for that.”

Weber, who played 10 games for the Capitals during the regular season, was acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres near the deadline in late February because of the team’s concern over injuries during the playoffs. Chorney, pressed into the lineup because of the injuries, ended up playing in 55 games, nearly double his total over parts of five previous seasons in the NHL.

Which of the two players will be on the ice on Wednesday is unclear. The Capitals rotated defensemen during drills in practice on Tuesday, and both players professed to not knowing the choice once the session ended.

“I was fortunate enough to play some games in the playoffs last year,” Chorney said, referring to five appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins. “I think you draw back on those experiences and know that you’ve been out there, you’ve experienced a bit of success with that before and just kind of embrace the opportunity.”

For a time, it seemed as though Orpik’s absence may not be the only one the Capitals would have to endure. Goaltender Braden Holtby collided with a teammate near the end of Tuesday’s practice and left the session early, though Trotz said that Holtby was merely “nicked up” and that he wanted to leave the ice as a precaution.

The Capitals have never before held a 3-0 advantage in a best-of-seven series. Should they defeat the Flyers on Wednesday night to earn the sweep, they’ll have several days for Orpik to potentially recover in time for the next round.

“This series is a tough series,” Alzner said, “and guys are going to get hurt.”

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