Sean Collins got a very familiar call Monday afternoon. Again it was from Hershey Bears general manager Doug Yingst and again the message was that he had been called up to join the Capitals.
It seemed certain the team was going to bring up a seventh defenseman to have around with John Erskine not yet cleared for contact.
“When we phoned down there, he’s the best right-handed defenseman that they had,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s got experience playing for us, and he’s playing well. If we had’ve kept a seventh here, he would’ve been the one that we were keeping, anyway. He was the logical choice.”
Logical because Collins is 27 years old and his game won’t be stunted if he’s just an insurance policy and not in the lineup. But then there’s Mike Green’s sprained right ankle, which caused him to miss yet another practice Tuesday.
Collins has replaced Green before – in Game 4 of the Lightning series – and he knows this drill very well.
“I spent a pretty good chunk of time here last year – the same coaching staff, a lot of the same guys,” Collins said. “The systems have changed a little bit, but we did them at training camp and we’re doing them in Hershey as well, so I feel good about it.”
Collins spent Tuesday’s practice skating with Jeff Schultz, as Dennis Wideman moved up a pairing to play with Roman Hamrlik. During his one playoff game last season, Collins skated with John Erskine.
He’s used to playing with Patrick McNeill with the Hershey Bears, but working with Schultz – or anyone else – is an adjustment.
“Whenever you’re playing with someone that you haven’t spent a considerable amount of time with, you have to make sure you’re communicating all the time on the ice,” Collins said. Different players have different tendencies, and the more you talk, the easier it makes it on each other.”
But in a general sense, the Caps aren’t expecting Collins to replace Green – not on the power play and not with offensive punch. They just want him to be capable, if he’s in the lineup.
“Sean Collins, when he originally came up a couple years ago, he did a simple thing. He just went out there and made simple plays, didn’t do anything fancy, and usually when he does that, he’s very effective,” assistant coach Bob Woods said.
Collins has earned the Caps’ top call-up job by being that reliable blue-liner. And while he was not at his best in that playoff game, he recognizes his role and wants to improve his play at the NHL level.
“It’s basically consistency,” he said. “You don’t want to have one good game and then one bad game. You want to be solid in every game.”
That could start Thursday if Green’s not ready to go.