ARLINGTON, Va. - Brooks Orpik is a veteran of three outdoor NHL games and is holding out slim hope he can play in a fourth.
The Washington Capitals defenceman is considered a game-time decision for Thursday's Winter Classic after injuring his right knee Monday night in an overtime loss to the New York Islanders. Orpik rode a stationary bike Tuesday and said the knee was feeling a little bit better.
"I've hurt the knee before, so this one felt a little bit different," Orpik said. "It was a lot more painful than previous injuries, but the other injuries were a lot worse. Hopefully that's a good sign."
Washington coach Barry Trotz said Orpik wouldn't be rushed back just to play in the showcase game because he's "too important of a player with us to risk anything."
"We'll be cautious. He's a pretty important part to our team," Trotz said. "If we're not 100 per cent sure, it's not going to happen."
Orpik wears a knee brace that Trotz said "really saved him."
The 34-year-old will have treatment done on the knee to see how it responds.
The Capitals have had their top four defencemen — John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Karl Alzner and Orpik — play in all 36 games this season. If Orpik misses time, Nate Schmidt could replace him in the lineup.
Trotz said the Capitals may recall Steve Oleksy from the AHL's Hershey Bears to have a seventh defenceman just in case.