Update 1:09 p.m.: The Capitals made a series of roster moves Wednesday ahead of their first practice back in the Eastern Time Zone, recalling defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Michael Latta from the Hershey Bears. To make space on both the 23-man active roster and under the salary cap for Orlov and Latta, veteran defenseman John Erskine has been placed on long-term injured reserve.
Erskine, whose placement on LTIR is retroactive to Oct. 26, sat out the Capitals’ 3-2 loss in Vancouver Monday after looking limited in his stride during the previous three games.The 33-year-old defenseman missed four games from Oct. 12-19 with an upper-body injury, but since returning from that absence it’s looked more as though Erskine is still working to regain strength in his surgically repaired left knee. Erskine was on the ice ahead of practice on Wednesday working out with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish.
Coach Adam Oates said after practice that the upper body issue Erskine, who is eligible to return to the lineup Nov. 20 against Pittsburgh, is dealing with is related to the recovery from knee surgery.
“The knee surgery in the summer probably set him back where he couldn’t train and the upper body stuff is probably compensations based on that,” Oates said. “It’s kind of a standard thing that you start favoring something or if it’s not as strong as it should be kind of start hurting everywhere else. He needs to take some time and get healthy and get stronger.”
Oates conceded that even though Erskine was in the lineup in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary the defenseman hasn’t been completely healthy.
“I don’t think he’s been 100 percent all year. It shows what a warrior he is and how much he wants to compete and we really need him, but I told him we need him at 100 percent,” Oates said. “The way he plays, the physical part of the game is a big part of who he is, so he’s got to be able to do that.”
With the Capitals still looking to shore up their overall defensive play, this recall presents an opportunity for Orlov, who was out with pink eye when Erskine was previously out of the lineup. Orlov, in the final year of his entry-level contract, has recorded one goal and five assists in six games with Hershey so far this season. Orlov appeared in five games with the Capitals last year after suffering two concussions during the lockout, but this would be his first chance to make a significant impression on the current coaching staff at the NHL level.
Latta, 22, has appeared in two games with the Capitals this season both as fourth-line center. The gritty forward saw no more than 7:03 in either appearance, but has successfully drawn penalties and provided a sandpaper edge that Washington doesn’t exactly have in abundance.