With Erskine injured, Caps turn to Schmidt

With Erskine injured, Caps turn to Schmidt
October 11, 2013, 3:00 pm
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Capitals lose to Hurricanes at home

Capitals defenseman John Erskine suffered what the team is calling an upper body injury in the third period of Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, setting into motion a series of roster moves.

Erskine, who shoots left-handed, will be replaced in the lineup by 22-year-old lefty defenseman Nate Schmidt, who will make his NHL debut Saturday night in D.C. against the unbeaten Colorado Avalanche.

To make room for Schmidt’s $925,000 cap hit, the Caps assigned defenseman Connor Carrick [$636,667] and center Michael Latta [$590.833] to the AHL Hershey Bears.

Oates said he asked general manager George McPhee about recalling left-handed shooting defenseman Dmitry Orlov but was told Orlov has conjunctivitis in one of his eyes.

Oates said the injury to Erskine occurred just before Nathan Gerbe scored the game-winning goal 6:59 into the third period.  

“He got contorted there,” Oates said. “He spun out and pulled something.”

Erskine underwent knee surgery over the summer and said he was still working his way into skating shape late in the preseason.

Oates said he elected to go with Schmidt because he’s left-handed and because he moves the puck well out of his own zone.

“He’s a good, heady player,” Oates said. “He skates well and moves the puck well and we need to get cleaner coming out of our own end. We don’t want to throw him into a lion’s den tomorrow against a hot team, but he skates good and they’re a very good skating team.”

Oates said he’s not sure whether he’ll move the left-handed shooting Alex Urbom onto the second defense pairing with John Carlson or move Schmidt into that spot. Urbom, also 22, looked solid in his Capitals debut Thursday night alongside Steve Oleksy.

“I thought he played good,” Oates said. “That’s why I really believe in left-right shots. You don’t get caught over there. Steve [Oleksy] took a hard hit in Dallas on that, borderline dangerous hit. I don’t want a guy to not succeed based on that.”

As for Carrick, Oates said he wants to see the 19-year-old defenseman get some minutes with the Bears, adding he does not see the OHL Plymouth Whalers as an option.

“He proved that he belongs up here,” Oates said. “I think he’s outgrown junior is probably the best way to put it.”

Oates said that without Erskine, Latta and Aaron Volpatti in the lineup, the Caps will need to be “team tough.”