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Brooks Orpik nearing long-awaited return to lineup

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

While the Capitals were playing games in the evening, Brooks Orpik would be working out for a second time that day. It served two purposes: getting himself physically ready to return to the lineup while also getting used to the schedule again.

“Staying up past 9 o’clock was a little bit of a shock,” Orpik said.

Orpik has missed 40 games with a lower-body bone injury, and he’s expected to play again this week, potentially against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said it’s up to the veteran defenseman to make the call when he’s ready.

“It’s like, ‘Put me in, Coach,’ and I will,” Trotz said.

“I think you’re nervous and excited at the same time,” Orpik said. “I think it goes away pretty quickly though. Couple of shifts in, you’re just kind of right back into it.”

Orpik said it was a collective decision for him to not play last week during Washington’s three-game road trip. He was able to get more battling drills in, and he often stayed on the ice 30 or 40 minutes after most of his teammates went back to the locker room. He started practicing with the team on Feb. 2, and the last game he played in was against Detroit on Nov. 10, more than three months ago.

Is Tuesday the day?

“I don’t know,” Orpik said. “I’ve got to talk to them. We’ve kind of just been going day-by-day and making sure there’s no setbacks with it. It felt good today, and we’ll just see how it goes tomorrow morning.”

Trotz has said that when Orpik plays again, he’ll start on the third pair. He said the Capitals wouldn’t play seven defensemen in a game, so it’s likely either Dmitry Orlov or Taylor Chorney would be the healthy scratch. Before he got hurt, he was averaging 19 minutes and 15 seconds of ice time a game, but Orpik said he doesn’t care where he plays at this point.

“I just want to get back playing after that long time off,” Orpik said. “Just try to jump back in, and obviously the team’s going really well right now, so you just try to get in and try to help the team just keep going at the pace they’re going at.”