10.16.13: Caps week in review
It wasn’t easy for Marty Erat to put on a fourth-line jersey every morning at practice.
It wasn’t easy scrolling down the scoresheet after every game and seeing single-digit numbers in the TOI [Time On Ice] column.
With 11 years and 739 NHL games under his belt, it took a lot of resolve for Erat to swallow his pride and wait his turn.
On Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Erat will finally get the ice time he feels he deserves when he joins center Brooks Laich and right wing Troy Brouwer on the Capitals’ second line.
“I know he’s been unhappy with where he is,” said Brouwer. “He’s a good team guy and he would never express those feelings to too many people, but a guy like that really wants to play. He wants more opportunities and I think he’ll take advantage of it.”
Laich said every player has been in the position of feeling he deserves more ice time and he’s expecting Erat unleashes that anger on the Blue Jackets.
“He hasn’t played a lot of minutes, so he’s coming in with a lot of hunger,” Laich said. “We know he’s going to be flying. We’ve all been there and you almost want to give it to the coach and say, ‘Play me, because I can do this.’ Marty’s going to come in with that fire.”
Erat, 31, spent his entire career in Nashville as a left-shooting right wing. When he came to Washington last spring in the trade deadline deal that sent Filip Forsberg to Nashville, Erat was moved to the left side.
During training camp, Capitals coach Adam Oates asked him to move to center for the first time in his career, then switched him back to left wing. But it’s the reduction in ice time that bothered Erat more than the position change.
His average ice time dropped from 18:55 with Nashville last season to 8:46 with the Caps this season while playing on a fourth line with rookies Tom Wilson and Michael Latta and Jay Beagle.
“When you get more minutes you get a feel for the game and you feel better on the ice and you have more confidence with the puck,” Erat said.
Brouwer said Erat played a very structured system under Barry Trotz in Nashville and that makes finding him on the ice an easy chore.
“He’s got that burst speed,” Laich said. “Marty’s a very explosive skater. He can dart to that hole and he’s very slippery with the puck.”
Laich also welcomed the switch from left wing to center, where he’s played the majority of his career.
“I consider myself a centerman anyway,” Laich said. “The switch for me going to center is just a position switch and not a mindset switch, so it’s going to be an easy transition.”
Erat said Oates’ line juggling on Friday will result in different ice times for different forwards, but it doesn’t change the fact the Capitals need to improve in every aspect of their game.
“This team has so much potential,” Erat said. “It’s all about bringing it to the ice. You have to play hard for 60 minutes. It’s not a 40-minute game.”