The Capitals were originally scheduled to practice at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Tuesday morning. But after an emotional, 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 3 Coach Adam Oates decided the team would be better served by a day off.
It marks the second consecutive day without a game in this series that Washington has essentially been off. On Sunday, the Capitals had an optional skate that only two players who have appeared in the series participated in before traveling to New York.
But for Oates, rest is as important as any other type of preparation, and at this stage of the season he’s not concerned about conditioning. He and the coaching staff will continue to review last night’s game and pass on the necessary adjustments, but he wants the players to have an opportunity to recuperate.
“Rest obviously is the biggest weapon, most important weapon right now,” Oates said outside the team’s New York City hotel. “You’ve got to let the guys rest. It’s very stressful. Every moment of the game, everything is stressful. And every chance we get to let them re-charge, we’re going to do it.”
Devils Coach Peter DeBoer consistently gave his team days off on their run to the Stanley Cup finals last season and Oates, who was an assistant coach in New Jersey for two years before taking over in Washington, agrees with that philosophy.
“There’s always guys that are banged up, there’s always guys that would get maintenance days no matter what, so they’re not skating,” Oates said. “There’s obviously a few guys that didn’t play as much that would want to, and, you know what, they got to maybe get a workout in. At this time of year, I’m not worried about conditioning. So it’s more fatigue. It was late, what are you going to get accomplished today? Maybe mentally the day off, recharge the battery and go at it tomorrow.”
Troy Brouwer said Oates’s experience as a player allows him to have a better idea of what a team needs even after a postseason loss.
“He was a player as well,” Brouwer said. “He knows how stressful these games can be, he knows how tough how these games can be to bounce back, and so he’s just trying to give us an opportunity to relax and like he says, clear our minds.”
>> Defenseman John Erskine left Game 3 with 4:18 remaining in the first period following a big hit by New York captain Ryan Callahan. Erskine returned to the ice early into the second period after being examined by team medical personnel and finished the game with 17:38 of ice time.
“It was a hard hit. He wasn’t feeling fantastic, they tested him. He was fine,” Oates said postgame.
Oates saw Erskine when the team gathered for breakfast Tuesday morning and the veteran blueliner said he was okay. “He said he felt good. That’s good to know.”
Said Brouwer: “It was good to see him come back. He looked a little shaken up after it happened. But Ersk is a tough guy. He’s gonna come back and play hard. That’s who he is. He is one of those guys that they’re gonna try and target because he plays quite a few minutes for us. To get him back, it’s a relief. Hopefully he’s clearing his head and having some fun today and can relax.”