Dmitry Orlov plopped into his locker room stall Thursday afternoon, sweat dripping from his face after another post-practice workout, and shook his head. As the seven-month anniversary of his wrist surgery approaches, the Capitals defenseman’s recovery has plateaued again.
“That’s the long part of the game,” he said. “Hard to stay positive. You can practice every day, do the same thing, and not playing. We’re hockey player. We love the game, we love to play. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
With this uncertainty has come the most confusion. At first, doctors estimated Orlov could return within four to six months, which meant the maximum would still return him shortly into the regular season. Then, an infection delayed the recovery and sent Orlov to the hospital. Then, he kept hitting these stages of stagnancy, like the one experienced Thursday, when the grip strength and extension on the wrist never felt like it was getting better.
“Nothing worse, but slow,” he said. “Sometimes it just stuck and stay and nothing happen. Slow, slow, slow all the time. I’m happy it’s not making less or going back. The doctors told me four-six months. I got an infection, set me back. I think right now, I should be a little bit farther right now with my wrist, my extension. We’ll see.”
Through 28 games in 2014-15, defenseman Nate Schmidt has solidified the sixth defenseman spot beside Mike Green while Orlov skated alone in the mornings and eventually progressed to practicing in a non-contact jersey. Now, neither Orlov nor the Capitals have a definitive timetable in mind. It’s a waiting game with no discernible end.
“Nope, just skating every day with us,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “Getting better. He’s hit a little bit of a plateau, which is frustrating for him, and frustrating for us a little bit. He’s been skating a long time. You can only skate so much in practice before you want to play. And he’s just not there yet.”
So, Trotz was asked, would the Capitals consider a second surgery, or at least a procedure to diagnose why Orlov’s recovery has taken so long? The coach did not rule it out.
“Not from me, because I’m not a surgeon,” he said. “With the medical staff, they’re looking at okay, we’re getting a little frustrated, what are our options, how can we get past that? I think they’re just exploring every avenue that’s out there. Once they do that, then the next thing will be making a decision and going down that path and trying it.”