Caps put Erskine on shelf, recall Orlov

Caps put Erskine on shelf, recall Orlov
October 30, 2013, 2:15 pm
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10.30.13: Caps week in review

Washington Capitals defender Dmitry Orlov (81) skates up ice with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center.

(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Capitals defenseman John Erskine had reached a point where he just couldn’t get to where he wanted as fast as he wanted. He knew it; his teammates knew and so did Adam Oates.

“I don’t think he’s been 100 percent all year,” Oates said after putting the Caps through an hour-long practice Wednesday, ahead of Friday’s 7 p.m. game in Philadelphia. “It shows what a warrior he is and how much he wants to compete and we really need him. But I told him we need him at 100 percent.”

Erskine, 33, underwent what was supposed to be routine arthroscopic surgery last summer, but when it was discovered he had more reconstruction than originally thought, Erskine’s rehab schedule was more extensive than originally planned.

Erskine said during training camp that he was a month behind where he wanted but was willing to soldier through the weakness he had in his leg.

“I would say, personally, that the knee surgery in the summer probably set him back where he couldn’t train,” Oates said. “…He needs to take some time to get healthy and get stronger.”

With that in mind, the Capitals placed Erskine on long-term injury reserve, backdated to Oct. 26, and recalled Dmitry Orlov from Hershey of the AHL. A player placed on LTIR must miss a minimum of 10 games and 24 days, which means the earliest Erskine can return to the lineup is Nov. 20 at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Orlov, 22, is expected to make his season debut with the Capitals Friday night in Philadelphia. He practiced Wednesday alongside right-handed defense partner Steve Oleksy.

“I just want to play my game and each game play more confidence,” Orlov said. “I want to try my best and hope I stay here a long time, the whole season. Not think about going back again, just stay here and play, play, play.”

This is a critical season for Orlov, who played in just five games last season [1 assist, plus-5] after playing 60 as a rookie [3 goals, 16 assists, plus-1] in 2011-12. He is in the final year of an entry-level contract that pays him $690,000.

Orlov did not play well enough in training camp to earn a spot on the Caps’ opening night roster and was sent back to Hershey with specific instructions.

“What I told him when he got sent down to Hershey is he needs to improve in his own end,” Oates said. “I see the passing, I see the shot, I see the offensive reads. That’s NHL caliber. He’s got a big body [6-foot, 210 pounds] and he has to play his corner of the ice. That’s what he’s got to improve on, and if he does he’s an NHL player.”