John Erskine and his snarl back on defense for Capitals

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John Erskine disagreed with Brendan Shanahan’s assertion that his elbow to the head of Wayne Simmonds was “reckless,” but the Washington Capitals defenseman served his three-game suspension without much of a protest.

Erskine is eligible to return and is set to be in the Caps’ lineup Saturday night against the Florida Panthers. The 32-year-old said he was “very eager.”

“I missed the last three games, and it’s tough watching,” Erskine said. “I’ve stayed in shape and practiced hard and I’m ready to go.”

Erskine brings snarl to a defense that is built more on puck-moving, finesse players. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he’s the only real pile-moving blue liner the Caps have.

Washington went 0-3-0 without Erskine, who isn’t concerned about needing to get his legs back under him.

“I think I missed like five, six days, so I don’t think it’ll be too hard to get back into it,” he said. “I’m ready to get back out.”

Defenseman Tom Poti’s status with an upper-body injury was not immediately clear. He missed Thursday night’s game at the Pittsburgh Penguins after trying to skate at Consol Energy Center.

“They gave me some good drugs to try in the afternoon, but it just ended up not working and I didn’t feel good enough to play,” Poti said. “It kind of [stunk] having to sit out after kind of feeling a little bit better out there on the ice in the Toronto game.”

The injury happened when Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov boarded Poti in the first period Tuesday.

“The guy kind of pushed me from behind, cross-checked me into the boards,” Poti said. “I went pretty much head-first into the boards and didn’t feel too good. That’s hockey.”

Defenseman Roman Hamrlik reported feeling all right in replacing Poti on Thursday. He felt fresh legs in the first period but acknowledged it was tough as the game wore on.

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