- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A rousing ovation from teammates accompanied Brooks Orpik’s return to the ice on Tuesday as the Washington Capitals defenseman participated in practice for the first time in nearly two months.

Orpik, whose inclusion in the morning skate marked his first session since Dec. 7, sustained an unspecified lower-body injury in a road game against the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 10.

Neither he nor coach Barry Trotz said when Orpik would be able to play in a game. Trotz suggested on Monday that Orpik would return from his injury before center Jay Beagle, and acknowledged that Beagle should be ready around mid-February.

Trotz said at the time of Orpik’s injury that it was considered minor and that Orpik should be able to play through it. After returning to practice roughly a week later, that proved not to be the case.

“It wasn’t going as expected, I guess,” Orpik told reporters on Tuesday morning. “I kind of had to take a step back and get a different look at it and take a different approach. It was obvious something wasn’t healing, and then you’re trying to play through it, and the only thing that was going to make it heal was to rest.”

Although Orpik didn’t share the specific nature of the injury, he revealed that his recovery included a bone needing to heal. When the pain never subsided, the defenseman was told “to stay off it for eight weeks, so it was a long eight weeks.”

Orpik had been skating before practice with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish since mid-January, and the goal was to have him ready to participate in the morning skate before the game against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

That would have given Orpik the four-day all-star break, plus roughly an hour of conditioning on Monday on a rink adjacent to where the Capitals were practicing, to prepare for the return.

“He’s had a long haul here in terms of skating by himself,” Trotz said. “It gets very boring and it does play with your mind. You feel like an outsider a little bit. That’s just part [of being] injured. The group goes forward and you have to stay back, so it was good to have him out there.”

Orpik, who formed the Capitals‘ top defensive pair with John Carlson, played in 14 games before getting injured. He also underwent surgery in July to repair a tendon and muscle that had torn off the bone in his left hand, wiping out his preseason.

Nate Schmidt had filled in for Orpik on the top pairing, and when Carlson sustained an injury of his own on Dec. 26, the second pairing of Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen began logging additional minutes.

Carlson returned on Jan. 27 against the Philadelphia Flyers, and Orpik’s doesn’t seem to be too far behind.

“You don’t like missing games, so you just try to play through things,” Orpik said. “It’s probably a good lesson for a lot of guys: It’s not the smartest thing sometimes.”

NHL reschedules postponed games

The NHL announced that the Capitals‘ game against the Anaheim Ducks, scheduled for Jan. 22, will be made up on April 10, while the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins that was supposed to take place on Jan. 24 will be made up on March 1.

Those two games were wiped out because of a blizzard that moved through the area. On Monday, the NBA moved the Washington Wizards’ game against the Charlotte Hornets, set for a 7 p.m. tip-off on April 10, to a noon start to accommodate the Capitals.

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