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Barry Trotz expects Brooks Orpik to play Saturday

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

As soon as defenseman Brooks Orpik was approached by reporters in the Capitals’ dressing room, he issued a disclaimer. Already knowing what would probably be asked, he volunteered that he still wasn’t sure if he would play in the season opener on Saturday.

“Are you going to play tomorrow?” winger Jason Chimera jokingly asked anyway from a few stalls over.

Orpik, who had wrist surgery in July, has been practicing all week, not donning the light blue non-contact jersey that center Nicklas Backstrom has worn. Earlier this week, General Manager Brian MacLellan and Coach Barry Trotz said they expected him to be in the lineup on Saturday. Orpik wasn’t so concrete on Friday.

He said the decision will probably be up to the doctor, though he doesn’t know (or doesn’t want to volunteer) when he’ll have that evaluation.

“If you ask a player, they’re probably pretty antsy to get back in,” Orpik said. “They know better than I do when it comes to this stuff, so you’ve got to listen to them.”

Not long after Orpik gave non-committal responses on his status, Trotz said, “I would say that he is a go, but we’ll make that determination after the morning skate.”

Orpik still has a small brace on his left wrist, which he said limits its range of motion. Orpik said there’s no substitute for the physical contact he’d get in a game, though his conditioning has been good because his lower body was never injured, so skating wasn’t an issue. After skating with only Backstrom and strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish, he could sense his timing was off when he first returned to the team practice.

“It’s not going to be perfect for a while,” he said. “You just try to work around it. … It feels better than it did last year. That’s the most important thing.”

If Orpik is in the lineup, then he’d skate with John Carlson as the first-pair defensemen. Last season, Orpik appeared in 78 games, finishing with 19 assists and leading the team in hits. He also finished second in both penalty kill minutes and even-strength minutes logged per game.

“We’ll pay attention to how he handles it,” Trotz said. “He’s such an elite athlete in terms of fitness and how he takes care of himself that I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a deal for him. Just getting enough game reps is going to help him. … I’m hoping that the veteran will kick in and he’ll just keep going on and playing the game that he needs to play.”