Caps defensemen get green light to jump in play, join rush

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Adam Oates’ system is predicated on defensive prowess creating offensive opportunities. But don’t think the Capitals’ forwards will be the only ones generating offense.

Look for the defensemen, even the likes of Jeff Schultz, John Erskine and Roman Hamrlik to be given permission to jump up in the play and join the rush.

“Absolutely. Why not?” assistant coach Calle Johansson said. “I know what you’re thinking, Schultz is a defensive defenseman, Erskine [too]. Obviously we all know that [Mike] Green is one of the best in the league and [John] Carlson is great and all that stuff but who said if there’s a chance, Schultz couldn’t join the rush? We need four guys on the attack and he’s as important as anybody else. He just got believe it himself and that’s our job: to make him believe it.”

This isn’t Bruce Boudreau’s run-and-gun, but it’s certainly not Dale Hunter’s sit back and defend style. Defensemen think it’s a nice mix.

“For me, it’s nothing surprising. But it’s good to know we have a green light to jump on the play. We had it last year early in the season with Bruce. When Dale take over, it was little bit different system,” Hamrlik said. “They want us to support forwards, pass the puck to forwards and the other defense can jump and join the play. It’s good, the system it’s good, but we have to work on it and we have to get it in our heads. It’s gonna be, I think, more mental thing than just go and think about what we have to do on the ice.”

Thinking and reacting could be a challenge in the near term for guys who are used to being stay-at-home defenseman. But Johansson isn’t worried.

“We can all change. These guys are not old,” Johansson said. “They’ve been around for a lot of years, but they’re not old. So you can change a little bit, sure.”

It’s not Schultz’s or Erskine’s or Hamrlik’s usual deal, though. So when Johansson and Oates informed defensemen of the green light, “they looked kind of surprised.”

“It’s our job to tell them to and if they screw up, who cares,” Johansson said. “Mike Green screws up when he joins the rush too, you can’t be afraid of it. You’ve got to let them make a mistake and keep playing.”

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