Cameron Schilling will make his NHL debut Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes after being recalled by the Washington Capitals.
Schilling was brought up from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League because of injuries to defensemen John Erskine and Tom Poti.
“It’s part of the game,” coach Adam Oates said. “Everybody’s gone through it, when we played Carolina last time they had some kids up.”
When the Caps played the Hurricanes on Feb. 27, Carolina was without defensemen Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain. Their blue line included Justin Faulk, Joe Corvo, Jay Harrison, Bobby Sanguinetti, Ryan Murphy and Marc-Andre Gragnani. Predictably the Caps won 3-0.
The Hurricanes have Gleason and McBain back for Tuesday’s game. But the Caps have a blue line with three guys who were in Hershey when the NHL season began: Schilling, Tomas Kundratek and Steve Oleksy.
“It’s definitely different,” Oleksy said. “You step into a situation and then to start the year playing with those guys and then to be up here with them, it’s a little funny seeing faces from down there up here. But it helps everybody feel more comfortable, I think, especially Cam getting ready for his first game here. He’s definitely got to feel more comfortable knowing a couple familiar faces in the locker room.”
Schilling spent time in Washington’s training camp but was sent down before the season opener. Now he’s back after getting the call-up.
“It’s a dream come true to come up here to the NHL and get a game in, so I’m just gonna try to enjoy it as much as I can, but stay focused and try to play my game,” Schilling said.
Erskine suffered what the team is calling an upper-body injury in Saturday’s loss at the New York Islanders and did not play Sunday against the New York Rangers. He was placed on injured reserve to make room on the roster for Schilling; the 32-year-old is eligible to return Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Poti is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury. It’s uncertain when the 35-year-old defenseman will be able to play again, though coach Adam Oates hoped to have Poti back this weekend.
Until then, Schilling is on the Caps’ third defensive pair, alongside ex-Bears partner Oleksy.
“Me and Cam played together for quite a few games down there, we were D partners, so we’re pretty familiar,” Oleksy said. “Hopefully we can carry that over to the next step here.”
It should help Schilling that he learned Oates’ system with Hershey when the coach was there for two months.
“It was great in Hershey. Adam’s a very hands-on guy,” Schilling said. “He taught us a lot of things and hopefully in my time here, he can teach me a lot more about the game.”
Schilling, 24, played 54 games for the Bears and is relying on his “natural instincts” now because he’s so used to Oates’ system. Watching Oleksy (four points in four games) can’t hurt.
“I think it helps Schills that Tomas and Stevie O are here doing OK,” Oates said. “That should give him confidence that ‘Yeah, I can step in and play a simple game and be solid’. We obviously feel that way.”