John Erskine hopes to play by the weekend. Tomas Kundratek could be close to returning. Soon the Washington Capitals could have just about a healthy blue line again, which could require some roster juggling.
For now, the blue line built around Mike Green, John Carlson and Karl Alzner is surviving and thriving thanks to contributions from Steve Oleksy, Dmitry Orlov and Jack Hillen.
"We definitely have a lot of defensemen, but it just shows guys work hard and when it's their chance to get put in the lineup, they're playing good and making big plays for us," Erskine said.
Green is back, having played three games since missing 10 with a nagging groin injury. Erskine and Kundratek practiced Wednesday, while Tom Poti skated briefly Monday but is "a ways away" from returning, according to coach Adam Oates.
Erskine suffered an apparent left hand/wrist/arm injury March 9 at the New York Islanders and hasn't played since. He's hoping to be back in the lineup this weekend, either Saturday at the Buffalo Sabres or Sunday at the Philadelphia Flyers.
Kundratek injured the medial collateral ligament in his right knee March 14 at the Carolina Hurricanes when Jeff Skinner fell awkwardly on him.
"I was scared because I felt the knee right away; there was something wrong with [it]," said Kundratek, who had dealt with a knee injury before. "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."
An MRI showed the MCL was not torn, and Oates said Kundratek is really close to playing. That could mean Oleksy or Orlov returning to the Hershey Bears, and another move will have to be made when Erskine is ready.
"It's a good problem to have and we're just going to make some decisions," Oates said.
Fehr injury is 'frustrating'
Right wing Eric Fehr left Sunday night's shootout victory at the New York Rangers with an upper-body injury and did not take part in Monday's optional practice. Oates said Fehr was expected to see a doctor later Monday.
Oates said Fehr did not suffer a shoulder injury, which appeared to be good news for a player whose career has included three shoulder surgeries.
"It's obviously frustrating," Oates said of Fehr's injury. "He's been playing very good hockey for us."
Fehr has six goals and six assists in 29 games this season. If he's unable to play Tuesday against the New York Islanders, Wojtek Wolski or Aaron Volpatti could step in, or the Caps could recall right wing Joey Crabb from Hershey.
Ovechkin named first star
Captain Alex Ovechkin was named the NHL's first star of the week after recording five goals and three assists in the Caps' four-game road trip. Ovechkin has seven goals and four assists in his past seven games, dating to March 14 at Carolina
Ovechkin has scored a goal in five straight games. He hasn't put together a six-game streak since January 2008.
"It feel normal. Like long time," he said of being named first star. "It feels like kind of excited."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.