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John Erskine didn't expect that a glancing hit in Minnesota would give him his second concussion in eight months or that it would keep him out of the Capitals' lineup for 22 games. Take a closer look at what the past six weeks of recovery have been like for Erskine and see how excited he is to get back on the Verizon Center's ice in today's hard-copy story.

*The Capitals pose a "sobering challenge" to the Oilers.

* did a 20-questions of sorts with Brooks Laich about things off the ice.

Oilers Cliff notes:
*With 43 points the Oilers are in 11th place in the Western Conference and searching for ways to get themselves back into the playoff picture.

*Edmonton's missing its leading scorer, Ales Hemsky, who suffered a mild concussion after being hit by Nashville's Jordin Tootoo on Dec. 28. Although he took the trip to Washington, Hemsky isn't expected to face the Caps tonight. The Oilers are 3-4 without Hemsky in the lineup and their power play is 6-28 during that stretch.

*Edmonton owns the 28th-ranked penalty killing unit, successful 74.9 percent of the time.

*The Oilers recalled Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers from Springfield yesterday and he'll join the team in Washington. The Edmonton Sun however, says to expect Dwayne Roloson in net tonight against the Caps.

*Keep an eye on center Sam Gagner. Despite recording a goal and an assist in Edmonton's win over St. Louis Sunday, Gagner has suffered from a case of the sophomore slumps but could be ready to break out, just like he did in the latter half of his rookie season.

*Washington won the teams' last meeting in a 5-4 shootout victory on Jan. 17, 2008 in Verizon Center when Matt Bradley ended the extra session as the 12th shooter. The Oilers haven't won in Verizon Center since Jan. 26, 1997.

In the system:
*John Carlson's goal for London against Oshawa this weekend is No. 3 on TSN's top-10 plays of the week. Check out the video here.

*Speaking of the young defenseman, in the Knights' 7-3 win over Mississauga St. Michael's Majors Carlson (6-3, 210) defenseman got into a fight with Michael Pelech (6-2, 212).

*Hershey Bears captain Bryan Helmer will be in the AHL's chat room on Thursday. If you'd like to submit a question head to and look for the link on the bottom right hand side of the page.

By Katie Carrera  |  January 13, 2009; 8:06 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Erskine Set to Return
Next: Ovechkin to Defend All-Star Breakaway Title


Well here's for a healthy return of Erskine, a Caps after all. Rock the red man!

Posted by: mauree | January 13, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I don't care what their status is in their conference. You just don't blow the Western Conference off, ever, especially not coming off back-to-back losses. We've got to get back on the freight train, so to speak, and what better time to do it than tonight?

Come on, guys, solid D and a good effort. We want a good, solid, convincing win tonight.

Posted by: kittypawz | January 13, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm excited for this but curious...How physical do team practices get? Seems kinda scary sending him out there. It's like sending a refurbished plane across country instead of a little test flight. I guess thats how sports are. Let's Go Ersk!

Posted by: cappies | January 13, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Tarik- Will Theo be in the net tonight?
Looking forward to getting back on track with a convincing win tonight. We should also get our PP unit going against Edmonton's penalty killing unit, they are not that strong on the kill. Let's get some momentum going into Pittsburgh.

Posted by: tomdchancar | January 13, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Yeah it's dangerous to overlook tonight's game in favour of tomorrow's. It's interesting to see also if Theo will start in both. I think he should start tonight.

Posted by: mauree | January 13, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Is the US economy that bad now that the NHL's "20-questions of sorts" with Brooks only contained 10 questions?

What's next? Top ten goals with only 6? 3 stars but only 1 player named? Best of 5 playoff series?


Posted by: DaveUKCapsFan | January 13, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Tarik - Apropo of nothing - WHAT are the chances that later in the season, or next year, we'll get FM radio coverage of the Caps? I am a Caps fan from the early days, former season ticket holder,and have often relied on the radio coverage (used to even take radio to games when Cap centre had signal available indoors).

In last couple of years I really enjoyed the postgame call-in show. Now the only way to hear the radio is on my computer or, if in the car, on XM. I live in Reston. None of the radios in my house pick up AM 1500 satisfactorily, and it doesn't even come in well in the car. There must be more people like me - will there ever be enough? Can't figure out who at Caps HQ to send a protest to...

Posted by: Baystater1 | January 13, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse


Based on last month's Three Stars, the economy must be looking up - they named four. Leading indicator?

Posted by: saintex | January 13, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

This Erskine comeback scares the crap out of me. Can someone give me a good D-man concussion comeback story? The guy was an average player (at best) before these concussions. Playing with Mike Green, he has to be super solid. Not even sure why BB is doing this. Why put him with the guy who will most likely get the most minutes, and needs a really solid partner to back him up when he gambles? I dont get it, so I dont like it. Somebody help me out!!!

Posted by: WTF_Fehr | January 13, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Oh. One more tidbit - look at's fan poll this morning. "Which team's recent run up the standings has been most surprising?" Washington leads by a narrow margin right now.

Everyone's all surprised. Ha.

Posted by: kittypawz | January 13, 2009 7:52 AM

Got bit by the new thread bug, so reposting.

Posted by: kittypawz | January 13, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Wow I can't wait to see Carlson play here.

Posted by: TheOriginalEgon | January 13, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Carlson has played here, well in this area, as a member of the New Jersey Rockets when they took on the Washington Jr. Nationals. I believe Carlson was on a team that played against the Jr. Nats back at Bowie Ice Arena a few years ago, but I'll have to check. He was good then, but surprised me to see him go as high as he did. Jr. Nats are home this weekend at Kettler Capitals IcePlex. 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night, 11:30 a.m. on Sunday and the games are free.

Posted by: dj1123 | January 13, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

In response to WTF_Fehr:

I am in total agreement. Erskine, while I love the guy, is our weakest link. I think that even when healthy, I would rather see him as a healthy scratch. I think the only person that could carry him is Poti, and he is out. I hope it works out tonight and the rest of the season, but I am definitely nervous about his return.

Posted by: Buttertown | January 13, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I could see Erskine benefiting from a condition game in Hershey to see how he feels at full speed/ full contact.

Anyone know a reason why he wouldnt want to do this for 1 game?

Posted by: SA-Town | January 13, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse


I guess by "here" I should have specified as a Cap/in the phonebooth.

Posted by: TheOriginalEgon | January 13, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm excited to see The Sexy Lumberjack back.

With back-to-back games, who gets the nod in goal tonight? Think Johnson starts tonight, Theodore tomorrow night?

In other news ... my friends finally got a DVR -- so now I don't have to worry about missing any of the Capitals games on Tuesday nights when I'm in class.

Posted by: Cerealman | January 13, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

You are not the only one missing the FM coverage we had last year. I am able to get 1500 long enough after home games on the ride home to catch the post game, but it is not clear. Perhaps FM will come back with the Caps continued success and the lack of other competetive sports teams in the area. (not holding my breath)

Posted by: _Mark | January 13, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Erskine is too slow and not agile enough to play in the NHL anymore. He should only be used on Penalty Kill. Yes he is strong and a tough guy which the Caps need but often he makes mistakes while defending odd man rushes just because hes flat footed or clumsy

Posted by: musicburgler | January 13, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Green, Alzner and Carlson are going to be great 1,2,3 for us... When it happens... maybe 2010.

Posted by: JSchon | January 13, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I keep reading posts like

"I don't care what their status is in their conference. You just don't blow the Western Conference off, ever, especially not coming off back-to-back losses. We've got to get back on the freight train, so to speak, and what better time to do it than tonight?

"Come on, guys, solid D and a good effort. We want a good, solid, convincing win tonight."

WTF? You know, the Caps want to win, too. Not to mention we're having a spectacular season. They lost two games. Not the end of the world.

Posted by: ralph4100 | January 13, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse


kittypaws and irockthered are resident gloom and doomers... Let them gloom and doom all they want, they have done it all season and we are 27-13-3 and on pace for 111 points... Whatever they are doing its working

Posted by: JSchon | January 13, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

If the last time the Oilers won was here in DC was in Jan. 1997, then they've never won in the Verizon center. The Caps and Bullets (they were the Bullets back then) still played at the USAir Arena back then...

Posted by: MikeL-Caps91 | January 13, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I do not think the Capitals are taking the Oilers for granted. Not with BB around; not with Ovechkin around; not after getting blanked at home by Columbus. They could be playing the '77 Canadiens tomorrow and they'd come out Hard tonight.
Will their fans do as much?
This one will.

Posted by: redlineblue | January 13, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I LOVE IT!!!---a Canadian newspaper finally taking notice that we are "a Cup contender"

Thanks for the link Tarik!

Posted by: Rhino40 | January 13, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

And on other thing they got right: The Caps are "the most electrifying team in hockey."

Joe B

Posted by: rw-c | January 13, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

And "on" = And one ...

Posted by: rw-c | January 13, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I've said it before and I'll say it again.

The best things in life are:

1) Watching a Capitals' victory in person
2) Watching a Capitals' victory on CSN-HD
3) Watching the Canadian commentators on "NHL On The Fly" talk about how good the Caps are afterwards ("Ovechkin is so great; you can't stop him--you can only survive him"), and
4) Watching a Pittsburgh Penguins loss anytime, anywhere.

Looks like it could be a VERY good week!

Posted by: Rhino40 | January 13, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

here I am with accurate prediction again:
like before Caps will beat Edmonton but lose badly to Pitts. This team CANNOT wont back to back games. Caps are not an elite team

Posted by: phrdlick | January 13, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

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