At 6 feet 4, 220 pounds, Capitals defenseman John Erskine is two inches shorter and 10 pounds lighter than teammate Jeff Schultz.
So why will Erskine replace Schultz when the Capitals face the Boston Bruins tonight in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at the Verizon Center (7:30 p.m., CSN)?
We just want him there because he plays the body more, Capitals coach Dale Hunter said after Thursdays morning skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. After the whistles, I think the referees are going to clamp down on it. We dont want no penalties. When we hear the whistle, we skate away. We want Erskine there to finish more hits.
Erskine, 31, played in just one of the Capitals final 33 games, logging 8:31 in a 3-2 loss to the Rangers. In 28 games for the Caps this season, he recorded two assists and 51 penalty minutes and was a plus-3. By comparison, Schultz played 54 games with one goal, five assists, 12 penalty minutes and was a minus-2.
Erskine knows the reason hes in the lineup, even if he didnt articulate it Thursday morning,
Im not going to change my game, he said. My game is physical, play tough, be tough in front of the net. I just play a simple game, and Im not going to change anything. I havent played in a couple months, so Ill definitely be going tonight.
Whether or not Erskine drops the gloves tonight there has not been a fighting major in the first three games of the series Schultz said the Capitals need to be careful not to get into a street fight with the Bruins.
We dont have the guys to stand up to Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic, Schultz said. You almost have to just leave guys like that alone. Dont stir them up and get them going, because thats when they play their best.
Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner knows all about that. He rubbed his eyes in a mocking crybaby gesture toward Lucic and has spent the past two days saying he regretted it. Alzner said the Caps arent the kind of team that can bully its opponents.
Its not something anyone has seen us really do, Alzner said. Its just not our style. I dont think you can do that and play good hockey. We wanted to come out hard and establish that were not going to back down, but once thats done, you can go out and play.