The Washington Times - September 29, 2011, 03:30PM

When defenseman John Erskine skated around the ice for practice Thursday, he was devoid of the bright orange jersey signifying no-contact that he had worn all training camp.

False alarm. That was just a chance for him to skate around in normal Capitals colors while the team worked on drills. He has not been cleared for contact, as rehab from offseason shoulder surgery is still ongoing.

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“It takes time to heal and it’s not fully healed yet and ready for contact,” he said. “It’s something I’ve got to deal with, and hopefully I’ll be cleared in a couple weeks.”

A couple weeks from Thursday would be the Caps’ third game of the season. And that’s just cleared for contact at practice, as Erskine would likely need to settle into a practice rhythm and maybe even go on a brief rehab stint with the Hershey Bears.

The goal, though, is contact by around mid-October.

“A couple weeks makes it the five-month mark [since the operation],” Erskine said. “When that time comes, I’ll probably see the doctor, and [team physician Ben Shaffer] will either [tell] me I’m good to go or I’ve got to rest it some more.”

In addition to the six defensemen who figure to be in the opening night lineup (Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Mike Green, Jeff Schultz, Roman Hamrlik and Dennis Wideman) and Erskine, the only defenseman left in camp is 20-year-old Dmitry Orlov. But coach Bruce Boudreau cautioned reporters not to read too much into Orlov’s presence as an indicator that he could stick around for the start of the season.

(More on that in another blog post)

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Goaltender Michal Neuvirth, as expected, missed practice Thursday with what Boudreau called “a tightness thing.” Braden Holtby was the second goalie Thursday, but the coach was optimistic about a speedy return for Neuvirth.

“I got to believe he’s going to be practicing on Saturday,” he said. “That’s my guess.”

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Forward Mathieu Perreault, who has put himself in a good position to make the team with a strong preseason, was given the day off Thursday.

“[He’s] a little banged up and as we’ve done all training camp if you’ve got an ouchie we’re not playing you because it’s training camp.”