Roman Hamrlik did not rotate in consistently during line rushes this morning but the veteran defenseman said after the workout that he expects to be back in Washington Capitals’ lineup Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I’m cleared to go,” Hamrlik said. “I feel much better.”
Coach Dale Hunter confirmed that Hamrlik will be returning to the lineup.
“Roman’s a veteran; he’s been around a long time and we need him back in there,” Hunter said. “He moves the puck, passes really well. We need him there to block shots. He’s one of the best shot-blockers, so he should give us a lift tonight.”
Hamrlik missed the past four games with what the team has called a lower-body injury, which the defenseman said was not a groin problem like what he experienced during training camp back in September.
Through 23 games, Hamrlik has one point, 18 penalty minutes, is second on the team with 46 blocked shots but has a team worst rating of minus-10. He is in the first year of a two-year contract worth $7 million.
The 37-year-old Czech participated in practice or morning skates each of the past four days, but Hamrlik said he didn’t feel ready to return until Friday.
“I talked to the coaches and the training staff and I didn’t feel comfortable out there. I don’t want to push,” Hamrlik said. “Obviously it would be different story if it were in the playoffs — I would probably go and play. I want to be 100 percent, and it feels like it. I’m ready to go today.”
With Hamrlik back in the mix against Toronto, Jeff Schultz appears to be the odd man out. Schultz, who skated a season-low 3 minutes and 55 seconds against Ottawa on Wednesday, was the last player on the ice and taking part in some one-on-one work with assistant coach Jim Johnson.