Defenseman John Erskine is still a few weeks away from being cleared for contact, but Coach Bruce Boudreau said the Capitals are prepared to start the season with the six healthy defensemen they do have in the lineup.

Whether considering a blue-chip prospect like Dmitry Orlov, who was assigned to the Bears today, or more seasoned AHLers like Sean Collins or Patrick McNeill, Boudreau said the Capitals want players to get the ice time that wouldn’t be available if they were the extra blueliner in Washington.

“Right now we have six and they’re healthy,” Boudreau said. “If they’re not going to play because these six are going to play, we’d rather have them playing in Hershey than sitting and watching games here.”

It was a similar type of situation when considering the future of forwards Cody Eakin and Mattias Sjogren, Boudreau said. In addition to the fact that the Capitals believed Mathieu Perreault had one of the strongest training camps of anyone on the roster, both Eakin and Sjogren can benefit from seeing significant time in Hershey.

“If you look at it, ice time is so valuable,”’ Boudreau said. “We think they’re all NHL players. It might be in two games, might be 10 games might be 30 games [in the AHL]. Down the road they’re NHL players. Where are they going to get the best training? Is it sitting on the bench or in the stands? Or is it playing in the second-best league in the world?

“It wasn’t anything they did wrong,” Boudreau added when discussing Eakin and Sjogren. “It was evident that Mathieu played better and that’s why he’s here and they’re not.”