ARLINGTON, VA The Washington Capitals could be stiffening up for Game 4 after getting pushed around by the Bruins in their own building on Monday night. Capitals coach Dale Hunter put bruising defenseman John Erskine on a defenseman pair with Dennis Wideman at practice on Wednesday afternoon at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, and mentioned a desire to protect his players on the ice.
After the whistles and before the puck was dropped they were going after us. Lucic was going after Backstroms head, but weve got to play through it and protect the players on the ice, said Hunter in an interesting choice of words. Right now, you know, weve matched them up. Erskine is healthy again and hes a big, strong guy in front of the net. He takes the body and hes an honest player.
Erskine has dropped the gloves with Milan Lucic in their past, and is one of the few players that was able to go toe-to-toe with No. 17 when the fists started flying. The Caps tough guy actually dropped Lucic to the ice during their first NHL fight when the Bs power forward was a 19-year-old rookie, but Lucic avenged that with his own hockey fight win two years later.
So those that have become squeamish about the dropped gloves and blood that have always been a part of playoff hockey might want to switch off the game when Lucic and Erskine share the ice together tonight.
It doesnt take a crystal ball or ESP to see a playoff scenario where Erskine comes calling looking for Lucic on Thursday night, but thats not a very good talent trade for the Bruins.
Meanwhile Jason Chimera, who stands as the only player in this series thats knocked an opponent out of commission for the playoffs with his regular season charging hit from behind on Adam McQuaid, spoke of the fine line between playoff-style intensity and proving theyre not a wussy team.
The Washington grinder regretted his stupid penalty when he speared Brad Marchand between the legs, and admitted that the Caps need to be smarter than that against the Bruins.
We cant take stupid penalties. Mine was a stupid penalty. You cant do that. No matter how much Marchand is diving and stuff like that, is embellishing a bit, said Chimera. You cant do stuff like that because its going to be called. You got to play hard within the whistles.
Were not a wussy team. We dont have to prove were tough to anybody. Were a skilled team. We dont need to prove were tough to anybody. Weve got guys who can fight, but you dont need to prove toughness in playoffs. Its going to be just winning some hockey games.
Theres been plenty of talk about toughness, diving and emotion heading into Thursday nights Game 4 at Verizon Center, and it sounds like the pot might be bubbling over given some of the signs heading into a pivotal playoff game between the Bruins and Capitals.