WASHINGTON -- Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik went from being a questionable to play Thursday because of a knee injury to playing a team-high 24:44 in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park.
Orpik, who sustained a knee injury in a game Monday against the New York Islanders, said he decided after warm-ups he was capable of playing. He wore a brace on his right knee that helped him get through the game unscathed.
"I felt better on the ice than I did off the ice," Orpik said following the Capitals 3-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks. "Without the brace on, it's a little worse, so once you get the brace on it's a little more secure. Obviously I really wanted to play in the game."
Capitals coach Barry Trotz left the decision of whether to play or sit up to Orpik. He said Orpik skated on his own Wednesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Washington's practice facility in Arlington, Va., and felt good, which was an indication that he would be able to play.
He led the Capitals in shorthanded ice time (5:43), helping Washington's penalty kill go 5-for-6, including a 91-second 5-on-3 kill in the second period, and was on the ice for the entire 5-on-3 kill.
Orpik also had two shots on goal and was credited with three hits and three blocked shots.
"He was fantastic," Trotz said. "You can only admire what he does and brings to the group. He just makes everybody better. He doesn't say a whole lot in the room, he says everything with how he plays and how he lives and his actions and his commitment to the game. So, it really is an important piece to what we're trying to do here in Washington."
Orpik said he felt guilty pushing Nate Schmidt out of the lineup.
"It was just something that if I didn't feel like I was hurting the team at all that I wanted to be a part of it," Orpik said.
Orpik had an inkling that his knee would be quite sore Thursday night into Friday morning, but the Capitals don't play again until Sunday. They have another two days off between games after that.
"The schedule is in our favor here. … so hopefully get some rest and we have a good training staff here that's given me a lot of their time," Orpik said. "I'm thankful to them."