When defenseman John Erskine last played a game for the Capitals he could barely lift his left arm above his head.
That was back on May 4 in the fourth and final game of the Capitals playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Shortly after the season, Erskine underwent surgery to have two significant tears in his left shoulder repaired.
After five months of strenuous rehab and six weeks of practices, the 31-year-old veteran returns to the lineup tonight against the Anaheim Ducks and is expected to play on a third pairing alongside Jeff Schultz.
To make room for Schultz the Capitals re-assigned Sean Collins to the AHL Hershey Bears.
Ive been practicing a long time now but games are totally different, Erskine said after the morning skate. I just need to take short shifts, throw the body around and get used to the pace.
"Weve been waiting a while to get him back," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He's really acompetitive guys and I'm sure the adrenaline will be going for him."
Known for his strong physical play along the boards and in front of the net, Erskine said hes anxious to get his first couple body checks out of the way.
Im not going to change the way I play because of injuries, he said. I cant go in second-guessing myself or Ill get hurt again.
Erskine could see some time on a penalty killing unit that has struggled recently, allowing four goals in back-to-back losses in Edmonton and Vancouver.
He brings the most physical aspect of any of our D-men and we could use him right now, defenseman John Carlson said