Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen will not play in Monday’s matinee against the Nashville Predators, missing a second straight game with a “day-to-day” undisclosed “upper-body” injury. Blue-liner Brooks Orpik, who has missed the past 27 games with a right knee injury, has a slightly more hopeful status, considered a game-time decision for the 12:30 p.m. contest.
Both players practiced with the team Sunday, typically an encouraging sign that they’re not far from returning to the lineup. The Capitals beat the Ottawa Senators, 3-2, on Saturday night without Niskanen or Orpik — defenseman Christian Djoos is also out indefinitely after left thigh surgery this month — and Washington got goals from young blue-liners Madison Bowey and Tyler Lewington. If Orpik doesn’t play Monday, the defense duos are expected to be the same, with an all-rookie third pairing of Lewington and Jonas Siegenthaler. Bowey skated beside Dmitry Orlov on Saturday night, Niskanen’s usual spot. But considering Niskanen had been averaging more than 22 minutes per game and playing in all situations, it’s hard to truly replace him.
Niskanen’s injury was caused by an awkward crash into the boards during the third period of Thursday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, and Niskanen told reporters that, while he was initially placed in the concussion protocol, he doesn’t have a concussion. He didn’t specify what the actual injury is.