Less than a week after Dmitry Orlov’s agent questioned whether his client had a future with the Capitals, the young defenseman will make his season debut.
Orlov, 22, was recalled from the AHL’s Hershey Bears on Saturday morning and will suit up with the Capitals tonight at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. It will be his first appearance in an NHL game since March 26, which happened to be against the Islanders as well.
“Of course I’m excited, I’ve waited for a long time,” Orlov said after a brief optional skate in New York. “I’m ready to play, finally it happens. My mind is on what I do, what I need to bring towards the game.”
Orlov’s opportunity comes in conjunction with the struggles of Alex Urbom, whose repeated mistakes prompted the coaching staff to bench him in the first period against Montreal. Urbom, whom the Capitals picked up off of waivers in October from New Jersey, will sit out against the Islanders as a healthy scratch.
“He’s had some good games for us and we felt obviously that he’s slipped a little bit lately in terms of his reads,” Coach Adam Oates said of Urbom. “You sit upstairs, you watch the game and you try to learn a little bit and try to learn a little bit about your reads.”
As for Orlov, who has recorded three goals and six assists in 11 games with Hershey this season, Oates wants to see the energy he expects from anyone getting into the lineup for the first time.
“When a guy gets called up in his first game we’re just looking for a spark, some energy, some enthusiasm,” Oates said. “You can’t evaluate him based on the play because it is the NHL, it is overwhelming at times. He’s going to get caught against great players and you just hope he does his best.”
This recall marked the sixth time this season the young Russian defenseman has joined Washington but despite spending 20 days with the team he had yet to crack the lineup. Bringing him up repeatedly was by design, though, because there’s a provision in Orlov’s contract that would allow him to leave for the KHL on Jan. 1 if he weren’t on the NHL roster for a total of 30 days.
But the constant back-and-forth, without playing many games at either level, prompted Orlov’s agent Mark Gandler to voice his concerns about whether the Capitals intended to ever play the 2009 second-round pick. Gandler initially requested Washington trade Orlov at the start of the season.
Whether Orlov does have a future with the Capitals at this point is uncertain, but he will get the chance to show he deserves a regular spot in the lineup against the Islanders. Orlov declined to comment on what Gandler has said, but simply wants to make the most of this opportunity.
“I don’t want to think about this right now. I just want to play, I’m happy to play,” Orlov said. “I think I play the easy game, with more defense. Of course if I have chance maybe try to score or get to the pass, but I think first [about] my defense and try to play hard every shift and help the team.”
>> Brooks Laich will miss a second consecutive game with a lower-body injury after experiencing tightness this week. He did travel to New York with the team, though.
>> Oates didn’t have an update to offer on Michal Neuvirth, who injured his right leg when he stepped on a puck in warmups Friday night. Washington recalled top goaltending prospect Philipp Grubauer from Hershey to serve as Braden Holtby’s backup against the Islanders.
>> To make space on the NHL roster, Michael Latta was sent back down to the Bears. Latta doesn’t have to clear waivers in order to be reassigned, so it’s the simplest move to make in this type of situation. Don’t be surprised if Latta rejoins the Capitals sooner rather than later.
>> With Laich out again and Latta back in the AHL that means Martin Erat, who publicly demanded a trade himself last week, will get into the lineup for the first time since making those statements.
>> Projected lineups for both teams
Thomas Vanek-John Tavares-Kyle Okposo
Josh Bailey-Frans Nielsen-Michael Grabner
Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Peter Regin-Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Colin McDonald
Andrew MacDonald-Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey-Calvin de Haan
Aaron Ness-Matt Carkner
Anders Nilsson is expected to start.