“Yeah, it’s life, it’s hard, everybody get injured,” Orlov said. “My injury was long than expect, so right now doesn’t matter for me what’s happened, I just need to be focused on this season.”
Once Orlov returned to northern Virginia on July 27, one of the Capitals’ earliest preseason arrivals, the scrub in his mind had been completed. Shutting down in Russia – no skating, no workouts, nothing – brought welcome rest, something he hadn’t experienced while constantly rehabilitating and practicing, working toward a goal he never reached before the season ended. At home, he trained with Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who said Orlov’s shot looked strong. At Kettler Capitals Iceplex this week, he fired pucks hard and deked around defenders, basic tasks the aching wrist couldn’t perform.
“I can shoot, I can do everything,” he said. “I feel good. I feel fine. I’m ready to play.”
His teammates took notice of his progress.
“I think he looks great,” defenseman John Carlson said of Orlov. “He’s been here pretty much all summer with me too. He looks better than ever. He was here last year too, so he went home for a little bit, but by the time he got back, it was a crazy difference between those couple of months and healing and getting stronger, whatever protocol he had. I think he looks great, skating great, handles the puck just as great as he ever used to and his shot’s definitely there again.”
Said forward Evgeny Kuznetsov: “He’s perfect right now. I hope he feel good. He look very hungry. He’s very hungry. I’m very happy for him because he come back and I see his slap shot, all like year before. You guys don’t worry about that. He’s ready 100 percent.”
Worrying was hardly an issue for Orlov, who had three assists in three games for the Hershey Bears but spent the entire year formally listed on long-term injured reserve. Appearing with the Capitals’ AHL affiliate was exciting enough when it happened in late March and early April, if only for interrupting the monotony of rehab in Arlington. He traveled with Washington on many road trips, including during the postseason, but was a regular fixture in the press box, sipping coffee and watching from the rafters.
Barring any unforeseen, last-minute setback, those days are gone, replaced by an anticipation trumping even thoughts about new deals and pending free agency.
“I don’t think about this is my contract year or not,” Orlov said. “I just want to play. I miss whole season and I want to play. When I play in Hershey I was so excited to be at the game and be in situation I like to be. Just play, try to help team, try to play better every game, try to get my confidence back and just play and enjoy.”