Jeff Halpern was on the ice at 10:41 a.m. Monday, well before a very light Washington Capitals practice was set to start. Skating by himself for a few minutes, this was his workout after two straight games as a healthy scratch.
The veteran is third in the NHL in faceoff percentage, but Mike Knuble was put back into the lineup over the weekend in Halpern’s place.
“We wanted to get bigger and Mike’s a bigger guy and [Jay Beagle] is doing a good job checking, so it was a combination of both,” coach Dale Hunter said Monday.
Asked about Halpern on Sunday night, Hunter explained that he wanted to get Keith Aucoin some time at center and on the power play.
As for communicating with Halpern, the Caps’ coach said he knows how to approach being out of the lineup.
“He’s a veteran. I don’t have to say much. ‘Keep working.’ You see him out here; he’s busting his tail. He’s going to work and those opportunities always come like [Jeff Schultz], all these guys. They all work in practice; they’re professionals,” Hunter said. “They know what it takes to keep in shape and when you get your chance to be ready to go. That’s what you have to do as a professional.”