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Orpik to decide if he plays in Winter Classic

by Corey Masisak / NHL.com

BLACKHAWKS (25-10-2) at CAPITALS (18-11-7)

TV: NBC, CBC, TVA Sports

WASHINGTON -- Barry Trotz has enough trust in Brooks Orpik that the coach will let the veteran defenseman decide if he plays Thursday for the Washington Capitals against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Bridgestone 2015 NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park.

Orpik left the game Monday with a knee injury and did not skate during the Capitals' official practice Wednesday at the home of the Washington Nationals.

"Brooks is taking warm-ups and he will tell me if he's playing," Trotz said Wednesday. "But he is feeling much better and we will not put him at risk.

"Structurally there is nothing wrong. Brooks is enough of a pro to know, 'Can I help the team? Will I hurt team?' I think he knows that if he's not there (able to play) and he'll hurt us, he'll let us know. He'll say to me, 'Hey, I've got to bypass this one.'"

Nate Schmidt would likely slide into Orpik's place next to John Carlson. Schmidt has no goals and three points in 32 games this season. He does have the second-best Corsi-for percentage among Capitals defensemen (53.3 percent) and has played mostly with Mike Green.

Schmidt and Carlson have been paired for less than 30 minutes at even strength, but the Capitals did control more than 61 percent of the shot attempts (Corsi) in that time.

Orpik was, along with Matt Niskanen, one of two significant offseason additions for the Capitals on the blue line. Orpik is not a strong possession player, but the Capitals, like the Pittsburgh Penguins before them, value his leadership skills, toughness and work on the penalty kill.

"He's really helped our young defensemen," Trotz said. "John Carlson has become a better player from playing with Brooks Orpik. Karl Alzner has become a better defenseman from watching Brooks Orpik. Matt Niskanen has helped him too, and Mike Green. It really filters down through our whole organization. Those were two really important signings for us."

BLACKHAWKS

Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane

Patrick Sharp - Andrew Shaw - Bryan Bickell

Daniel Carcillo - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

David Rundblad - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Joakim Nordstrom, Tim Erixon

Injured: Trevor van Riemsdyk (left patella fracture)

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Jay Beagle

Marcus Johansson - Andre Burakovsky - Troy Brouwer

Brooks Laich - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward

Jason Chimera - Michael Latta - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Jack Hillen - Mike Green

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Scratched: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Injured: Brooks Orpik (knee), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (upper body), Aaron Volpatti (neck)

Status report: Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Rozsival is ready to return to the lineup. He has not played since Dec. 23 because of a lower-body injury. Rundblad and Erixon, former teammates in Sweden reunited after a recent trade, have been competing for the sixth spot in the lineup. ... Burakovsky and Kuznetsov rotated during practice, but the Russian rookie took a double-minor high-sticking penalty late in Washington's overtime loss Monday and is the likely to be the one scratched.

Who's hot: Kane has four goals and 14 points in his past nine games. … Backstrom has seven goals and 11 points in his past eight games.

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