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After a rash of costly turnovers by Dmitry Orlov, changes could be coming

(AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Dmitry Orlov slammed his stick against the cage in frustration. His turnover had just led to a Columbus Blue Jackets goal that tied the game. Orlov probably also sensed that he was on a short leash because these types of mistakes were becoming habitual, and Capitals Coach Barry Trotz’s criticism of them had gotten harsher.

Trotz once called Orlov “an adventure” in the defensive zone, but his steady growth and offensive upside kept him in the lineup every game this season. Yet after Washington’s 4-1 win, Trotz was asked how much patience he has for these kinds of turnovers, and he said it had run out.

“I don’t have any,” he said. “We will possibly make changes the next game. Not guaranteeing that, but we possibly will.”

Change could be in the form of switching the defense pairs, potentially joining Orlov and Nate Schmidt again as a third pair and reuniting John Carlson and Brooks Orpik. Or it could come in the form of Orlov’s first scratch of the season.

Trotz has never called Orlov out by name, but he’s clearly referred to a mistake by him several times in recent weeks. On Pittsburgh’s go-ahead goal in a 6-2 Washington loss on March 20, Trotz said “one of our D was lazy coming back,” referring to Orlov. He was on the ice for four Pittsburgh goals.

In Saturday’s 4-0 loss, in describing the first goal of the game, Trotz said “our defenseman made a really, really soft play,” again referring to Orlov.

“We had three guys back, and they had one forechecker – that should not happen,” Trotz said. “That absolutely shouldn’t happen. That should be an easy exit and no goal against, and we need to clean that area up or that person needs to clean that area up.”

On Monday, trying to clear the puck out of the defensive zone, Orlov attempted to backhand the puck high. Rene Bourque plucked it with his stick and got it to Cam Atkinson, who scored on the odd-man rush back at goaltender Braden Holtby with 1:54 left in the first.

“We threw one pizza in the middle and it ended up in the back of our net, and that can’t happen,” Trotz said. “Those things are disastrous come playoff time.”

The Capitals have eight healthy defensemen with Carlson back from a lower-body injury, and since his return, Mike Weber and Taylor Chorney have been the extras. Before Carlson’s first game back, Trotz said he intended to keep the top four defensemen (Carlson, Orpik, Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen) in the lineup, but to avoid anyone getting rusty, he would rotate the third pair.

Before Monday’s game, Trotz was asked if he had considered putting the Carlson and Orpik pair back together, as they entered the season as the team’s top pair before injuries. He said he might put them together within a game because of a certain situation, like if the opponent’s top line was on the ice.

Trotz did that on Monday; after Orlov’s turnover in the first period, he started shuffling the pairs, and Orlov played less than three minutes of the second period, getting just three shifts.