Capitals defenseman John Erskine disagrees, respectfully of course, with Brendan Shanahan’s assertion that his elbow to the face of Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was “reckless” and that it warranted a three-game suspension.
Speaking to reporters Monday for the first time since receiving his suspension, Erskine said he was “not happy” with Shanahan’s ruling but has no choice but to accept it.
“He did what he had to do,” Erskine said. “It was more like a reflex. My elbow kind of came up at the last second. I wasn’t targeting his head or trying to injure him. It was a quick play, it happened, and it is what it is.”
Simmonds suffered a concussion on the play and Erskine said he texted the Flyers forward to apologize, saying he hoped he was feeling better and in the lineup soon.
In his 11th NHL season, Erskine said he’s been fined just once in his career and had never been suspended before now. He said he was hoping that clean record would work in his favor.
“I wasn’t flying down the ice a hundred miles an hour with my elbow up in the air,” he said. “That’s what he called it [reckless] and I have to live with it.”
Erskine will serve the second and third games of his suspension Tuesday night at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Thursday night in Pittsburgh against the Penguins.
In his five games before the suspension Erskine was averaging 19:29 in ice time and was playing some of his best hockey in two years.
“I was on a roll and having fun out there,” he said. “It’s bad timing and hopefully I’ll get back on Saturday [at home against the Florida Panthers].”
Neuvirth or Holtby: Caps coach Adam Oates said he is “still deciding” whether Michal Neuvirth or Braden Holtby would start Tuesday night against the Leafs. Holtby allowed six goals on 26 shots in Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Penguins.
Waiting for Laich: Forward Brooks Laich did not skate on Monday, which could mean he’s unlikely to return to the lineup this week. Oates said he would have an injury update on Laich on Tuesday.
Juggling eight D: With Erskine out, look for Tom Poti to get another game against the Leafs, which could mean another seat in the press box for Roman Hamrlik, who has been a healthy scratch six straight games. What does Hamrlik need to do to get back in the lineup? “He doesn’t need to do anything,” Oates said. “Guys are playing good hockey and I don’t think it’s fair to take them out right now. He’s a big boy. He’ll get his chance.” Oates said he’s been “absolutely” happy with the play of rookie defenseman Tomas Kundratek, who is a minus-5 and averaging 12:50 of ice time in eight games.