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Sunrise surprise: Jeff Schultz back for Capitals at Panthers

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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.

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.

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