Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik is wearing a different sweater these days after leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins as an unrestricted free agent over the summer.
And he skated for the Capitals in their preseason visit to TD Garden against the Bruins a couple weeks ago.
But with a regular season crowd paying closer attention, the veteran blueliner might hear the cat calls he didn’t receive in that exhibition game on Saturday when the Bruins and Capitals meet for the first time this season with two points on the line.
And it will also be his first time back on the ice against Bruins forward Loui Eriksson since last Dec. 7. On the game’s first shift, Orpik leveled Eriksson with a blindside hit that ended Eriksson’s night and led to some mayhem later in the game.
Even if the fans don’t remember what Orpik did, Eriksson obviously still has feelings of ill will toward Orpik. The Bruins winger says he’s not going to let those feelings hamper his play against the Capitals.
“Of course. I still think it was a kind of bad hit. But it’s in the past now. And it’s nothing I’ll think about when I play out there tonight,” Eriksson told TheBruinsBlog.net.
Orpik wound up leaving the ice that night in just as bad shape as Eriksson because later in the game Bruins forward Shawn Thornton accosted Orpik from behind in a scrum. Thornton wound up with a 15-game suspension. Orpik, who has only been suspended once in his NHL career, was not punished.
When asked about his return to the Garden against Eriksson, Orpik didn’t want to comment. He pointed out that he continues to live in Boston in the offseason and that he and Thornton continued their annual ritual of skating and working out together during the offseason this year. But if Thornton and Orpik have become cordial again, Orpik and Eriksson still have no relationship. Eriksson said he was surprised that he never got a call or a text from Orpik after the hit that resulted in serious injury because that would’ve been the “polite” thing to do. Orpik at first didn’t want to talk about that, but then he did anyway.
“So, I mean I hit a lot of guys the other night. If I had to reach out to every guy I hit, it’d be troublesome,” Orpik told TheBruinsBlog.net after some prodding.
Eriksson is still trying to get his career back on track after suffering two concussions last season. The Pittsburgh game was his 16th contest after leaving the lineup with a concussion that resulted from a John Scott hit earlier in the season. Eriksson didn’t return to the lineup until Jan. 11 after the hit by Orpik and barely looked like the player he was the rest of the season. This season, he’s off to a slow start with no points in two games.
“It was a tough night, especially to get all the way back a couple games and get that second hit right there,” Eriksson said.