- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Just when it looked as if the Washington Capitals were struggling on defense, reinforcements are either on the way or already here.

Big defenseman John Erskine made his season debut Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks after recovering from shoulder surgery, and All-Star Mike Green skated for the first time since suffering a right ankle injury Oct. 22.

Erskine’s gap-toothed smile said all that was needed about the relief of finally getting back into game action.

“I had surgery back after playoffs last year,” he said. “It’s kind of been a long road, and it’s good to be back.”

Coach Bruce Boudreau wasn’t concerned about Erskine shying away from contact, which is a big part of his style as a stay-at-home, physical defenseman. The 31-year-old maintained being cleared for contact eliminates any need for hesitation when going at opponents.

“It’s definitely part of my game, and I’m not going to change it just because of injury,” Erskine said. “I think that’s what kind of held me out is I didn’t feel comfortable going in, and I didn’t think the strength was there. I feel comfortable now; my confidence is there. I can’t go in second-guessing myself - I’ll get hurt again.”

Green wasn’t good enough to go Tuesday night at Verizon Center, but the 26-year-old skating for about 25 minutes around the team’s morning workout counts as progress. It marked the first day since twisting his ankle that Green could even get his right foot into a skate.

Green was optimistic, and Boudreau said he expected the defenseman to take part in practice Wednesday.

“[Tuesday] was a good day for me, and I finally got out there,” Green said. “It’s fine, honestly, and I’ll be ready to go soon.”

The coach originally said he was hopeful Green could return by this weekend, but there’s no timetable.

“If I feel good enough to play, I’ll play,” Green said. “I want to make sure I take care of it.”

Eakin recalled

Cody Eakin got the unexpected word Monday, while in a movie theater, that the Capitals were calling him up. It was only fitting that he was watching “In Time,” because Tuesday marked Eakin’s time to make his NHL debut.

“I’m pretty happy. It’s obviously exciting to get an opportunity to play my first game,” Eakin said. “I definitely didn’t expect a call, but I’m happy I got it.”

Eakin played his first regular-season game replacing veteran Jeff Halpern in the lineup.

Boudreau did not want to use the word “message” when addressing Halpern being a healthy scratch.

“We’ve got 13 forwards right now and we wanted to take a look at Cody,” Boudreau said. “That’s the way it works out.”

Ice chips

Enforcer D.J. King, who was placed on waivers at his camp’s request, cleared Tuesday at noon but was kept on the roster.

• To make room for Eakin, the club placed Jay Beagle (concussion) on the injured list, which opens a roster spot. His agent, Wade Arnott, said Beagle’s symptoms are “minor” and that he’s doing better.

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