Every chance he’s gotten over the past week, Sean Collins has remained at his locker extra time, skates on, answering boatloads of questions about his latest cup of coffee in the pros and this opportunity with the Capitals.
And every time he’s had just about the same refrain.
“Whenever they wanna use me, I’m gonna go in and do my best to help out the team,” Collins said Tuesday night.
It just so happens the Caps are now 3-0 with Collins in the lineup, but on Tuesday night he hit the score sheet – his first NHL goal since Jan. 1, 2009. Alex Ovechkin drew defenders in, then got Collins the puck in open ice and the 27-year-old defenseman beat Scott Clemmensen. Actually, it was just Collins’ second goal and third point at this level.
“The type of game I play, I’m more of a defensive defenseman, so I don’t always get opportunities to shoot,” Collins said. “But some games the puck kinda finds you, and I think that’s kinda what happened to me tonight.”
It was a nice reward for the 27-year-old who got his chance with injuries to Dennis Wideman and John Erskine and got another opportunity to play vs. the Panthers this time because the Caps rested Scott Hannan.
But offense isn’t what the Caps expect out of Collins. It’s not even what the Hershey Bears need from him in their Calder Cup run this spring. He’s a dependable guy – especially at the AHL level – and he’s shown that in this brief stint with the big club.
His coach spoke highly of him again following the win over Florida.
“He did a great job. He did a great job of following up that play [where he scored],” Bruce Boudreau said, citing Collins’ 18:38 of ice time. “I thought he was pretty steady out there.”
That’s all Collins tries to do – and so far he’s been just the kind of sixth defensemen the Caps have needed with all the injuries on their blue line. But with Mike Green “ready to play” Saturday, Collins’ clock could be ticking. Of course if the No. 1 seed in the East is already wrapped up by the time the Caps face off against the Panthers (a Flyers loss Friday would do that), it’s possible Boudreau gives another veteran a rest.
Collins has no qualms about that – and seemingly none even if he’s a healthy scratch.
“You can’t really worry about when guys are coming back or anything like that,” Collins said. “I just gotta try to prepare for the next day.”
Whatever that next day brings.