John Erskine has been cleared for contact and will be in the Capitals’ lineup tonight at Verizon Center against the Anaheim Ducks.
The rugged defenseman underwent surgery to repair multiple tears in his left shoulder labrum in May and hasn’t suited up for Washington since Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the playoffs.
“I’ve been practicing for a long time here but games are totally different so I’ve just gotta work my way into it, get some short shifts in, throw the body around and get used to the pace,” Erskine said. “It’s been a long road and it’s good to be back today.”
During the 2010-11 season, Erskine, 31, recorded career highs in games played (73), goals (3) and points (11), earning more consistent playing time along the way. He averaged 14 minutes and 49 seconds last season including 1:18 on the penalty kill.
“I think we’ve been waiting awhile to get him back. Hope there’s not too much rust on him; I’m sure there’s gonna be some but hopefully it’s not too much,” said Coach Bruce Boudreau, who added that the Capitals will try to manage Erskine’s minutes against the Ducks but that he doesn’t expect the blueliner to lack his physical style.
Erskine said he doesn’t think the time off and the injury will impact his willingness to finish his checks.
“When I was healthy, you get out there, you want to get some hits; it gets your confidence up, it gets the team going. It’s definitely part of my game and I’m not going to change it just because of injuries,” Erskine said, adding that the delay in his return was to ensure he would be confident when dishing out hits. “I think that’s kind of what held me out is I didn’t feel comfortable going in, I didn’t think the strength was there. I feel comfortable now, my confidence is there. I can’t go in and second guess myself or I’ll get hurt again.”