As the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals shoved each other around in Game 3 Monday, rugged defenseman John Erskine figured to be watching with an itch to get into the lineup.
“Well, I’ve been like that since Game 1,” Erskine said with a gap-toothed smile. “No, it’s definitely my style of game, the physical and the ruggedness of the series so far.”
While Erskine and Dale Hunter wouldn’t confirm it, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound tough guy will very likely be in the lineup Thursday night for Game 4, bringing his own brand of toughness to a series that started to get chippy Monday.
“Not going to change my game. My game is physical, play tough, tough in front of the net,” Erskine said. “I just play a simple game. I’m not going to change anything. I’m just going to go out and do my game.”
Erskine hasn’t played his game or any game since Feb. 12. Healthy scratches filled that time, though the 31-year-old did deal with a minor knee problem last month. He’s feeling good now.
And his conditioning should be OK, too.
“Well, I’ve been bag skated for two months now so I think I’ll be good like that,” Erskine said, drawing laughs. “But whenever you get thrown into a game it’s a different kind of conditioning so it’ll take me a few shifts to get going.”
Erskine is expected to at least start paired with Dennis Wideman, and he said the familiarity of playing together so much earlier in the season will help.
Erskine doesn’t bring speed or deft puck-handling skills, but he has fought Milan Lucic in the past and wouldn’t be afraid to mix it up after the whistles.
“Yeah, I mean, if anything were to get out of hand, Ersk would be our guy to stand up for us,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “He’s the only guy on our team, except for [Matt Hendricks], that really will fight on a consistent basis. You know, playoff hockey, you don’t really think a whole lot of bad things will happen, but if it does, it’s nice to have Ersky.”
Hunter doesn’t think there will be many extracurriculars Thursday night, though.
“We just want him there because he plays the body. After the whistles, I think they’re gonna clamp down on that, so we don’t want no penalties,” the Caps’ coach said. “We basically want to play through the whistle and we skate away. We play hockey between the whistles. We just want him there to finish more hits on Boston.”