After Concussion, Caps' Erskine Is Ready for Return

"My main worry is whether I'm more prone to get another concussion that much easier," says John Erskine, center, who's missed 22 games.
"My main worry is whether I'm more prone to get another concussion that much easier," says John Erskine, center, who's missed 22 games. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It was the type of hit that rugged Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine normally would shake off. But this one, delivered by Minnesota Wild winger Antti Miettinen to the back of Erskine's helmet Nov. 24 at Xcel Energy Center, was different.

"It was weird," Erskine said. "With other concussions, I had headaches. With that little hit, I just felt off-balance."

Miettinen's mild blow had dealt Erskine his second concussion in eight months, and Erskine wound up on the sideline for more than six weeks. That 22-game hiatus is expected to end tonight, when Erskine, the Capitals' most physical presence on the blueline, returns against the Edmonton Oilers at Verizon Center.

Erskine said after yesterday's practice that he has been "symptom free" for more than three weeks. He also said he's excited about returning, but like many players who have suffered multiple concussions within a short time span, the 28-year-old said he has some concerns.

"My main worry is whether I'm more prone to get another concussion that much easier," he said.

The first major concussion of his career, Erskine said, occurred last March during a fight with then Calgary Flames enforcer Eric Godard, who landed a punch flush on Erskine's jaw. Erskine did not lose consciousness, but he missed the next six games.

Erskine suited up for the season's final four regular season contests and all seven games in the playoffs, experiencing no ill effects.

In October, Erskine signed a two-year, $2.5 million contract extension that will keep him in Washington through the 2010-11 season and secured a regular spot in Coach Bruce Boudreau's lineup, suiting up for 19 of the team's first 21 games.

Then came the hit that was so slight he barely remembers it.

"It was just a hit," Erskine said. "It wasn't a hard hit or anything,"

Miettinen, the Wild's second-leading scorer, is listed at 6 feet and 190 pounds. Erskine stands at 6-4 and 218. Still, for more than a month, the glancing blow upended Erskine's life.

"The toughest part was at the start when they told me I couldn't do anything," Erskine said. "I couldn't exercise at all. I just felt like I sat around and got out of shape."


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