While back-to-back losses in Edmonton and Vancouver aren’t cause for full-scale panic, the Washington Capitals made some rather small-yet-curious moves prior to tonight’s game against Anaheim:
— John Erskine will draw in and make his season debut after undergoing shoulder surgery. The rugged defenseman will be a welcome addition to a team that allowed a season-high seven goals to the Canucks on Saturday.
“We’ve been waiting awhile to get him back,” Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau told the Washington Post. “Hopefully there’s not too much rust on him; I’m sure there’s gonna be some but hopefully it’s not too much.”
— To make room for Erskine, Sean Collins was returned to Hershey of the AHL. Collins pretty much sealed his fate against Vancouver by going minus-2 in just over nine minutes of ice time.
— Rookie F Cody Eakin was called up from Hershey and should make his NHL debut against the Ducks after Jeff Halpern skated with the healthy scratches this morning. Halpern only played 11:59 against Vancouver and was bad in the faceoff circle (1-for-5, 16.7 percent), though Boudreau was quick to explain this isn’t him sending a message.
“I don’t like using the word ‘messages’. It’s just we’ve got 13 forwards right now and wanted to take a look at Cody and it’s the way it worked out,” Boudreau told the Washington Examiner. “Every report we’ve gotten is that [Eakin] has played really, really well down in Hershey. He’s a guy that we really wanted to take a look at. So we thought Hershey only had one game this week and this was a good opportunity for us to take a look at him.”
— Sounds like Mike Knuble’s demotion to the fourth line will extend to tonight’s affair. Knuble has made it clear he’s not happy with the move, probably because his production has been pretty solid thus far. The 39-year-old winger has 2G-4A-6PTS in nine games and is a plus-2, but will be playing alongside a couple of greenhorns in Eakin, 20, and Mathieu Perreault, 24.
These are all small moves, sure, but their timing is the thing. Washington lost two straight after winning seven to start the year and you get the feeling that pissed a few people off. The Caps (Boudreau especially) appear to be all business this year, something Knuble explained to Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington:
“We knew coming in it would be a more competitive season. Maybe seasons before you could rest on your laurels, but that’s not good enough. That’s the way this coach works.”