The Washington Times - February 1, 2012, 12:35PM

SUNRISE, Fla. | Welcome back, Jeff Schultz.

After 12 straight games and 20 of 22 as a healthy scratch, the defenseman will be in the Washington Capitals’ lineup Wednesday night at the Florida Panthers.

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With how the last couple months have gone, you don’t really know too much of who’s playing and who’s not,” Schultz said. “So I was a little bit surprised this morning.”

Schultz’s last game came Dec. 31 at the Columbus Blue Jackets when he played 9:46. This will be just the seventh game he has dressed for under coach Dale Hunter.

“It feels good,” Schultz said. “It’s been a long time. It’s just going out there and playing within myself and just doing what I do out there.”

Hunter pointed to five days off for the All-Star break and the Caps’ back-to-back schedule as the reason for Schultz playing now.

He’s a defensive defenseman,” the coach said. “We want to see him play sound defensively. He’s not an offensive D. he’s not going to be a tough guy out there, so we need a defensive defenseman.”

Hunter isn’t worried about Schultz needing a lot of time to get back into a rhythm, citing his practice habits.

By doing that, he should be ready to play,” Hunter said.

Schultz will replace John Erskine, who played just 7:42 Tuesday night at the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 25-year-old has had to endure a lot of time off recently but has handled it well.

Just staying positive and trying to stay in the game – watching and trying to learn from what I’m watching up there,” Schultz said.