John Erskine’s insertion into the Washington Capitals lineup for Game 4 against the Boston Bruins wasn’t designed to bring more speed or offensive touch. It was for size and toughness.
Erskine delivered that in the Caps’ 2-1 win, clearing the front of the net, getting involved physically and having at least one memorable hit, drilling Boston’s David Krejci. One game after the Bruins pushed the Caps around a bit after plays were over, that didn’t happen much Thursday.
“They didn’t start much after the whistles or during the place. It’s nice to have a guy like Erskine back in the lineup,” goaltender Braden Holtby said. “He hasn’t played for a while and comes with that physical edge that when guys come to the net, they’re not messing around with Ersky.”
No one’s messing around when there’s a rugged, 6-foot-4, 220-pound defenseman ready to make an impact. He played just over 11 minutes but finished checks on Krejci, Shawn Thornton and others.
“That’s part of my game,” Erskine said. “I wish I could have got some hits in early, but the way the game was going it wasn’t as physical as I thought it would be and I think as it went on, with the timing I felt more comfortable.”
It was Erskine’s first game since Feb. 12, and before Thursday he had just over seven minutes of game action under his belt dating to the end of January.
“I think when I first got out there it’s tough to get the timing right,” he said. “Like I missed two months, but by the third period I felt good and wanted to throw the body around.”
Erskine noted in March that coach Dale Hunter had not communicated with him why he was a healthy scratch for such a long time. But Hunter had nothing but praise for the 31-year-old Thursday night.
“I thought Johnny played hard. He had some big hits,” he said. “Really good defensively. In front of his net, he played a lot of pucks. And for being out for two months, he looked like he played last game. So it’s a credit to him.”
Erskine even managed to get a shot on net.
“I’ve been working on it in the bag skates,” he joked.