During their back-to-back Stanley Cup final runs in 2008 and 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins knew all about what Brooks Orpik can do. The rugged, bruising defenseman's ability to play on the edge was a big part of the Penguins' playoff success for a long time.
With Orpik on the other side of their series with the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh was on the receiving end of Orpik's borderline play in Game 2. Not only did Orpik knock defenseman Olli Maatta out with a late hit to the head, but he wasn't afraid to shove Kris Letang in the face after the whistle.
Asked if Orpik plays any differently with Washington than he did with Pittsburgh, Letang said, "Uh, no."
"It's part of the game," Letang said of Orpik's post-whistle antics. "I'm not there to judge about that. If they're going to let that go, it's fine. It's going to be equal for every team."
Orpik getting under opponents' skin is one thing, but his hit on Maatta 4:13 into the first period should draw attention from the NHL's department of player safety. After the puck was gone, Orpik appeared to make contact with Maatta's head and was given a two-minute minor penalty for interference.
"I thought it was a late hit," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought it was a target to his head. I think it's the type of hit that everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game. That's how I saw it."
Sullivan said Matta was "out," adding that the team would probably have a further update Sunday. Game 3 is Monday in Pittsburgh, with the series tied at 1.
Orpik's availability for Game 3 and beyond will depend on how hard the league comes down on him for the hit on Maatta. The Capitals did not make Orpik available to speak to reporters after their 2-1 loss Saturday.
Washington coach Barry Trotz said he spoke with Orpik. Trotz relayed that Orpik thought the puck was coming back to Orpik and that he didn't intend to hit Maatta like that.
"He just finished on a hit," Trotz said. "There's a little size difference, and I think Maatta was leaning over a little bit. We'll let the league handle it."
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said Orpik's hit on Maatta "looked bad right away."
"You can word it how you want," Crosby said. "It didn't look good."
Trotz defended Orpik's character and style of play while acknowledging that whatever the NHL decides, the Capitals will deal with it.
"If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean," Trotz said. "He's not a dirty player. The Pittsburgh people know that. He plays the game hard but the right way."
Follow Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/swhyno .