John Erskine hasn’t appeared in a game since Feb. 12, but all indications are that the rugged Capitals defenseman will be in the lineup for Game 4 tonight at Verizon Center.

Erskine stopped short of confirming that he’ll play, as did Coach Dale Hunter. But Erskine left the ice during the morning skate with the other regulars, while Jeff Schultz stayed on the ice for conditioning.

If Erskine does return, the Capitals’ toughness quotient will increase significantly – just in time for series that turned chippy in Monday’s 4-3 Bruins’ victory.

Erskine skated with Dennis Wideman on the third pairing during Wednesday’s practice.

“If I do play tonight, I just need to go out and play a simple game,” Erskine said. “Not try to do too much. Let the game the game come to me, pretty much, and don’t be lunging at people.”

“I’m not going to change my game,” he continued. “My game is physical, play tough, play tough in front of the net and play a simple game.”

Added Mike Green: “It brings some toughness. You’ve seen him play. What you see is what you get. He brings a sense of humbleness to the other team. And that’s what we need.”

Despite playing in only one game since Jan. 31, Erskine said he’s not overly concerned about his conditioning or the knee he had scoped last month.

“Well, I’ve been bag skating for two months now,” Erskine said. “So I think I’ll be good like that. But whenever you get thrown into a game, it’s a different kind of conditioning. It will take me a few shifts to get going.”

Although everyone remained coy about whether Erskine will indeed play, the defenseman’s smile might have said it all.

“If I get in,” he said, flashing an ear-to-ear grin, “the playoffs are exciting, period. I haven’t played in a couple of months, so I’ll be going tonight.”

More on the Capitals:
Morning skate update: Knuble, Erskine could be in
Caps weigh in on ambiguity of NHL suspensions
Jason Chimera, unplugged
Alzner says he wasn’t calling Lucic a cry baby