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Jeff Schultz skates season low of ice time against Senators

Schultz, shown during a game in October 2010, is averaging 16:09 per game but played just 3:55 Wednesday night. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)

By game’s end Schultz played just 3 minutes and 55 seconds, skating eight shifts – five in the first period, two in the second and one in the third – and none were more than 50 seconds long. When asked why Schultz, 25, skated for such little ice time, Coach Dale Hunter said the stay-at-home defenseman didn’t “fit.”

“It’s one of those games where sometimes they don’t fit in to the picture as much,” Hunter said. “We thought we’d go down to five – especially when we’re down – he’s not an offensive D, so that’s what the plan was.”

The Capitals found themselves trailing Ottawa 2-1 late in the second period and for the first half of the third, but Schultz was not a part of the normal rotation before that – he skated just 1:47 in the first period and 1:18 in the second.

Other players typically identified as defense-first blueliners, like Karl Alzner and John Erskine, were not kept on the bench in the same fashion. Granted, Alzner has become the squad’s steadiest defensemen and he finished with a team-high 27:40 against the Senators, while Erskine was limited to only three shifts in the third but played 12:56 total.

Wednesday’s contest marked the second-lowest total ice time Schultz has ever seen in a game during his NHL career. The only smaller amount came back on Nov. 24, 2008 at Minnesota, when he played just 3:09, but he broke his finger in that contest and went on to miss the next month. Based on Hunter’s comments, injury was not the reason for this dip in playing time.

In 25 games this season, Schultz has five assists, a plus-1 rating, six penalty minutes and an average time-on-ice of 16:09 per game. He is in the second year of a four-year contract that has a salary cap hit of $2.75 million each season through 2013-14.

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