The Washington Times - February 4, 2013, 02:23PM

When John Erskine returns from his three-game suspension, the Washington Capitals will go back to having eight healthy defensemen. That means two guys sitting out as healthy scratches.

It’s not an easy task to juggle for coach Adam Oates and assistant Calle Johansson, even with seven. But Oates has been confident in sticking with the same group: Karl Alzner, Mike Green, John Carlson, Jeff Schultz, Tomas Kundratek and now Tom Poti.


“I feel like the last week we’ve been playing better hockey, the six guys that have been playing are a part of that, so that’s why they’ve been playing,” Oates said.

The odd man out has been Roman Hamrlik, who has been a healthy scratch for the past six games.

“He’s a big boy,” Oates said. “He’ll get his chance.”

Hamrlik shook his head and said “go ask [Oates and Johansson]” about what he needs to do better.

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” the 39-year-old said softly. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

Oates implied Hamrlik being out of the lineup had less to do with him and more to do with the play of those in games.

““He doesn’t need to do anything [in practice],” Oates said. “Guys have been playing good hockey, so I don’t think it’s fair to take them out right now.”

One of those guys is Kundratek, who has impressed the Caps’ staff.

“I think he’s played very simple, good hockey for us, filling in behind Mike and John well,” Oates said. “And you know, Tom [Poti] was a top-four defenseman before he got hurt, so you know, he’s kind of next. It’s a numbers game at times.”