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Orlov begins practicing in Hershey, Schmidt reassigned

Dmitri Orlov. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
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(UPDATED at 12:47 p.m. to include comments from Trotz)

The Washington Capitals’ AHL affiliate received an influx of bodies Tuesday, welcoming two reassignments from the NHL and two overseas prospects.

Defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who has spent the season on long-term injured reserve after undergoing wrist surgery May 22, 2014, moved one step closer to returning to game action when he began practicing with the Bears. Though he has not yet officially begun his conditioning loan, allowable under the NHL’s collective  bargaining agreement, he is slated to work with the Hershey Bears this week and play Friday at home, Sunday in Bridgeport and next Wednesday at home, Coach Barry Trotz said.

“He’s going to practice with Hershey for a couple days here, then I think if everything’s fine, then we’ll loan him there and he will start playing and that process will start,” Trotz said Tuesday. “Hoping for Friday. That’d be the plan. It’s no different. He’s just practicing. He’s not on anybody’s roster right now. He’s a defunct player or whatever they want to call it.”

The Capitals can request two extra games for Orlov before returning him here. The 23-year-old last played in an NHL game on April 13, 2014.

“He’s got a lot more zip on his shot than he had months ago,” Trotz said Monday. “It’s still quite not – me personally, I didn’t see him shoot last year other than film – I think he probably shot a little harder last year still. I think he’s still got a little ways to go. We’ll see where that goes.”

The Capitals also reassigned defenseman Nate Schmidt, a necessary move since defenseman Tim Gleason healed from his upper-body injury and defenseman Brooks Orpik returned from a one-day break while his wife, Erin, gave birth to their first child, a girl. Schmidt had played six games as an emergency recall for Orpik and later Gleason, scoring his first goal of the season against Boston.

Washington could have burned one of its four non-emergency recalls on Schmidt, but with cap space tight and Orlov’s return imminent, the team officially shipped him out Tuesday morning. However, Schmidt’s next recall would likely be for good; he is two NHL games shy of requiring waivers for further reassignments.

“I have four recalls and there’s rules with Schmidt, who plays X amount of games and he needs waivers,” Trotz said. “If he got to that point, his emergency would return into a regular. We also have to be flexible enough if Orlov gets through what he needs to do, that we make sure we have enough cap space and all that so we’re not playing shorthanded or anything like that. It’s a little bit of juggling a little bit.”

Hershey also welcomed prospects Christian Djoos, a 20-year-old Swedish defenseman, and goaltender Vitek Vanecek, the Capitals’ second-round draft pick last June. Both practiced with the Bears on Tuesday and will be eligible to play.

Djoos, the son of former professional hockey player Par Djoos, registered 17 points in 50 games this season for Brynas in the Swedish Hockey League. Vanecek posted a 2.24 goals against average and .925 save percentage in the second-tier Czech league. Vanecek also played three games for his country in the under-20 world junior championships recently, finishing with a 4.31 goals against average and .829 save percentage.