After an off day in Raleigh, the Capitals are back on the ice Tuesday morning ahead of their game against the Carolina Hurricanes in the final leg of a three-game road trip.
A win tonight would allow the Capitals to jump over Carolina, which has a game in hand, in the standings. The Hurricanes lost 4-1 Monday night at the Montreal Canadiens.
It’s possible Washington will have rugged defenseman John Erskine back in the lineup for this critical tilt against the Hurricanes. Erskine has missed 12 games since suffering an upper-body injury on March 9 at the New York Islanders and said after the morning skate it would be a game-time decision.
“We’ll decide later today. I’ve got to talk with trainers and coaches. I’m going to go along the rest of the day like I’m ready to play,” Erskine said. “I think I’m physically good to go. A couple hard practices there and I had to see how I recovered.”
If Erskine is ready to play the Capitals will need to make a roster move in order to activate him from injured reserve. It could be as simple as assigning either Dmitry Orlov or Steve Oleksy, who are both waiver exempt, back to Hershey. But it’s also worth noting that after midnight tonight, rosters can exceed the 23-man limit and will require less juggling on the Capitals part.
Coach Adam Oates said the decision with Erskine centers around the blueliner’s health, not any roster implications.
“It’s more is he pain-free? Is it pain-free in the sense that he can’t set himself back,” Oates said. “We’ve still got a lot of hockey. Obviously we want him in the lineup but we don’t want to risk him getting hurt in the first shift of the game. It’s another one of those injuries, like a groin, it’s tough to tell until you really test it. He really tested it out there today, so when he wakes up, as long as he’s not sore, we’ll make a decision then.”
Expect one of the other left-handed shooting defensemen, likely Jeff Schultz or Jack Hillen, to sit out if Erskine plays against the Hurricanes.
The line combinations were the same at the morning skate as they were Sunday in Philadelphia:
Update 12:40 p.m.: The Capitals made a minor league trade acquiring enforcer Joel Rechlicz, who played three games for Washington last season, from the Phoenix Coyotes for Matt Clackson. In 36 games for the AHL’s Portland Pirates this season, Rechlicz has 149 penalty minutes. As former coach Dale Hunter once said, “he’s physical”.