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Just playing helped the Caps shave points off their playoff deficit by going 9-6-1 in March. And even if it’s not a topic of conversation, injured defenseman Tom Poti, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, said the deadline is still in the back of players’ minds.

“Everybody’s a little tense, a little nervous. I think our team’s no different,” Poti said. “We’re kind of in the middle here and I think guys are professionals with putting it past us. We know we’ve got to keep winning if we want to get in.”

The Caps have been steadily improving of late as they’ve gotten healthier. They’re 4-1-1 since getting Laich and defenseman Mike Green back from groin injuries, and they could have just about a fully healthy roster once defenseman John Erskine is able to return, possibly Tuesday.

“We’re doing a lot of things well enough,” McPhee said. “I’d like to see this team healthy for one game. That would be nice.”

Oates has done his best plugging holes in the lineup, fitting them into his system and not missing a beat with the likes of Hillen and Steve Oleksy playing major roles on the blue line. And the Caps’ coach hasn’t brought up the trade deadline to his players because worrying about that isn’t part of his job.

“For the majority of the guys, I’m sure they don’t even think about it. I’m sure there’s a couple guys that it’s crossing their mind and that’s the same on every team and that’s why you have to be a pro,” Oates said. “And there’s really nothing else you can do about it. You just have to try and compartmentalize your brain and put it out of there. Go to work and do your job.”