NEWARK — With the Washington Capitals playing the first game of a back-to-back set, Coach Todd Reirden saw an opportunity to rest his oldest player while getting another his first game action in roughly a month. Defenseman Brooks Orpik will be a healthy scratch Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils, the second time the 38-year-old has been out of the lineup for a reason other than injury this season. Second-year blue-liner Christian Djoos will replace him after sitting out the past 10 games.
“You try to put yourself in a situation where everyone’s ready to play and perform,” Reirden said. “This seemed like the right time to put him in with a back-to-back. It’s not a great situation to have players not playing for quite some time. This will be a good situation for him, and I look forward to watching him.”
This is the last time the Capitals will play two games in two nights this season, and goaltender Pheonix Copley will get the start at Prudential Center with Braden Holtby expected to be in net Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have clinched the Presidents’ Trophy with the NHL’s best regular season record. Washington enters Tuesday’s slate of games tied with the New York Islanders atop the Metropolitan Division.
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Orpik, an alternate captain all five seasons he has been in Washington, will likely be back on the ice against the Lightning, too, and in 44 games this season, he has averaged a career-low ice time of 15:35 per game. In the Capitals’ last game, at Tampa Bay on Saturday, Orpik skated a season-low 11:12. He was similarly given a night off earlier in the season, against Toronto in the second game of a back-to-back.
Since Washington acquired defenseman Nick Jensen ahead of the trade deadline, he and Orpik have been the team’s third blue-line pairing, so Tuesday’s game will be a first look at a Djoos-Jensen tandem. Although he’s a left-handed shot, Djoos has typically skated on the right, but he’ll be on his natural side against the Devils.
“Seeing him on the left side is something that doesn’t happen to start the game a lot, but given our system and how we play and break pucks out and do different things, play rushes, our defensemen end up on their off sides,” Reirden said. “That is something that’s not out of the norm. Our players have the ability to execute plays from either side of the ice, and I think it does give a little bit of a different look for him up top at the offensive blue line, where he can really attack that forward. We’ve seen his ability to break down players in offensive-zone play, and I think we can add a little bit of that element to our team tonight.”