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Injured Caps defensemen skate at optional practice

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Injured defensemen John Erskine and Tomas Kundratek took part in the Washington Capitals’ optional practice Monday, while Tom Poti skated for a few minutes and left before drills began.

Poti is on injured reserve with a back injury aggravated March 17 when Steve Ott cross-checked him in the Caps’ victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

“He’s still a little ways away,” coach Adam Oates said.

Erskine is on injured reserve with what the team is calling an upper-body injury. He suffered an apparent left hand/arm/wrist injury March 9 at the New York Islanders. Monday was his first time participating in practice since then, though the rugged defenseman said he had been skating since Wednesday.

“I’m hoping to play soon. Hopefully by the weekend but I’ve got to see how I feel [Tuesday],” Erskine said. “I was doing more stuff than usual out there today, so I’ll see how I feel.”

Kundratek is on injured reserve with a right knee injury suffered March 14 at the Carolina Hurricanes when Jeff Skinner fell awkwardly on him after being checked by Karl Alzner. He had an MRI the next day and only then did he feel better.

“I was scared because I felt the knee right away; there was something wrong with [it],” Kundratek said. “And I was scared because through my head goes like, ‘It’s torn, it’s torn.’ So I was kind of scared, but it’s good.”

Kundratek knew it was his medial collateral ligament because he had a similar injury earlier in his career.

“Every injury is different,” he said. “I know I had it before, but it’s an injury like other one so I have to get a good treatment on it, and we’ll see how they’re gonna go from there.”

Kundratek wasn’t sure on a time frame, but Oates implied the 23-year-old could be back soon.

“He’s really close. Really close,” Oates said. “See how he feels [Tuesday]. Day-by-day.”

Seven other skaters and goaltenders Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth took part in the practice a day after beating the New York Rangers in a shootout at Madison Square Garden. Healthy scratches Aaron Volpatti, Wojtek Wolski and Jeff Schultz were joined by defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Jack Hillen and forwards Mathieu Perreault and Jason Chimera.

Eric Fehr, who suffered an upper-body injury Sunday night, was not on the ice. Oates said Fehr, who has a history of shoulder injuries including three surgeries, did not hurt either shoulder against the Rangers.

Riding a three-game winning streak, the Caps host the New York Islanders on Tuesday at Verizon Center.

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