The Washington Times - April 19, 2012, 08:58AM

It’s hard to blame John Erskine for being a little skittish. The big Washington Capitals defenseman didn’t say much to reporter before leaving the locker room after practice Wednesday, despite all signs point to his returning to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 12.

Erskine hopes to be in the lineup, but he didn’t hold court in reporters. The last time he did was March 9, when it looked like he could play with Mike Green facing a suspension.

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“I‘ve just got to go in the game and play if I play,” he said that day. “I’m sure it takes you a period or so to get going. But I don’t know. I’ve been working hard out here and I shouldn’t be off-beat too much.”

At that time Erskine had only missed 12 games in a row. Now it’s 30, counting the first three games of the Boston Bruins series.

Erskine was paired with Dennis Wideman at Wednesday’s practice, a good indication he’ll play in Game 4 Thursday, replacing Jeff Schultz. Another sign came Thursday when he was one of the first players off the ice.

“Right now, you matched them up,” coach Dale Hunter said. “Ersky is healthy again and he’s a big strong guy in front of the net.”

At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Erskine brings something different on the blue line. He’s not afraid to mix it up and, as a bonus, he has a history with Bruins forward Milan Lucic.

As for what Hunter wants to see out of Erskine, it’s … simple.

Just keep it simple. You know Ersky,” the Caps’ coach said. “He keeps his game simple. He takes the body. And he’s an honest player.”