Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS ; Orpik Could Be Difference-Maker vs. Penguins

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS ; Orpik Could Be Difference-Maker vs. Penguins

Article excerpt

ARLINGTON, Va. - Jay Beagle's sharpest memory of the Washington Capitals' 2009 playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins was when he tried to run over Brooks Orpik and instead got flattened at center ice. Orpik is still capable of making that kind of mark seven years later, if he's able to play. Now with the Capitals, the veteran defenseman missed the final three games of the first round with a suspected concussion, and his status for the start of the second-round series against the Penguins is up in the air.

Feeling "rusty in his first time on the ice with teammates since a big hit from Philadelphia's Ryan White on April 18, Orpik said on Tuesday he still has to "do some stuff with the doctors to make sure everything is going right before getting cleared to play. Game 1 is Thursday night at Verizon Center.

It's difficult to overstate Orpik's impact on the highly anticipated series between Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, and his old teammates, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

"I think he's our best D, obviously, Ovechkin said. "It's a huge key for us, especially against those guys like Sid and Geno. We have to make it tough on them. We have to play physical. We just have to dictate our game on them.

At 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds, Orpik brings a physical element that's hard to replace. He was a big piece of the Penguins' Stanley Cup run in 2009 and along with former Pittsburgh teammate Matt Niskanen has been instrumental in making the Capitals' defense championship-caliber.

"He brings a lot of good experience of knowing what it takes, being professional, his approach and on the ice - a battle-tested guy, Niskanen said.

"I come to do my thing: Defend well, positioning, stick positioning, skating, moving the puck efficiently and contributing in some different areas.

The Capitals need strong play from their top four defensemen Niksanen, Orpik, John Carlson and Karl Alzner against the Penguins, who not only have Crosby and Malkin but offensively potent players like Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin. …

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