Updated 12:57 p.m.: With veteran defenseman John Erskine and Tom Poti sidelined by injuries, the Capitals recalled defenseman Cameron Schilling from the AHL’s Hershey Bears Thursday morning.
Erskine suffered what is believed to be an injury to his left hand or wrist on Saturday against the Islanders and didn’t play in the 4-1 loss to the Rangers. The Capitals placed him on injured reserve to make room for Schilling on the 23-man active roster, and he is eligible to return as early as Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Poti is day to day with what the team is describing only as an upper-body injury, which leaves the Capitals short two healthy left-handed defensemen. Enter Schilling, who appears set to make his NHL debut against the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center.
“Obviously, it’s a dream come true to come up here to the NHL and get a game in,” Schilling said. “So I’m just gonna try to enjoy it as much as I can, but stay focused and try to play my game.”
Schilling, who is wearing No. 45, skated with Steve Oleksy during line rushes in the morning skate, which offers some familiarity because the two were paired together for a stretch in Hershey.
“Me and Cam played together for quite a few games down there, we were D partners, so we’re pretty familiar,” Oleksy said. “Hopefully we can carry that over to the next step here.”
With Tomas Kundratek, Oleksy and Schilling, three of the six defensemen expected to suit up against the Hurricanes were in Hershey when the NHL season began in January. The Capitals are far from the only team to have injuries pile up in this shortened season and needed to fetch reinforcements from their AHL affiliate.
Coach Adam Oates knows that Schilling will likely have some NHL-debut jitters, but he believes that playing alongside two of his former teammates with the Bears should help ease the transition.
“I think it helps Schills that Tomas and Stevie O are here doing OK,” Oates said. “That should give him confidence that ‘Yeah, I can step in and play a simple game and be solid’. We obviously feel that way.”
In fact when Washington hosted the Hurricanes on Feb. 26 they were without three of their top four defensemen. Oates said it was part of the Capitals’ game plan to put pressure on Carolina’s young defenseman and it’s safe to assume their foes will try to do the same thing tonight.
“We just need the kids to realize that their job is just play simple,” Oates said. “Do it and be a part of it, don’t try to do too much.”