Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik was only playing his second game since returning from what looked to be a serious injury resulting from a questionable check. And in that second game back, Orpik became the hitter under that same scenario rather than the recipient.
Orpik caught Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner Olli Maatta with a high and late hit in the first period of Game 2 on Saturday – a 2-1 Pittsburgh victory. Orpik made contact with Maatta almost two seconds after he released the puck. Orpik’s forearm or elbow appeared to make contact with Maatta’s head.
Maatta had trouble standing up afterwards. He was forced to leave the game 4:13 in after playing just 31 seconds and did not return. Maatta’s absence forced the Penguins to play with five defensemen and Kris Letang ended up clocking in with 35:22 of ice time.
Orpik received a minor penalty for interference. He apparently didn’t talk to reporters after playing 21:03 and posting a minus-2 rating in the loss. However, Washington Times sports editor Zac Boyer reported that Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Orpik him he thought Maatta was getting the puck back.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan felt the hit was late and to the head, according to Chuck Gormley of CSNwashington.com. But will Orpik be suspended by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety? THN’s Matt Larkin believes he should.
Justin Schultz or Derrick Pouliot are candidates to replace Maatta for the Penguins, should he miss Monday’s Game 3. If Orpik is suspended, expect Dmitry Orlov or Mike Weber to take his place in the Washington lineup.
Orpik could be forced out of action for the second time this month. The first time was because of a check from Philadelphia Flyers right winger Ryan White, which caused Orpik to crumple to the ice. He needed help from defense partner John Carlsson and a member of the team’s training staff to get to the dressing room.
On Saturday, so soon after his return, Orpik put an opponent in a similar situation.
UPDATE: The NHL Department of Player Safety announced Sunday morning that Orpik will have a hearing later in the day.