WASHINGTON – Playing against the Dallas Stars has always been special for Capitals defenseman John Erskine, who was selected by Dallas in the second round (39th overall) of the 1998 NHL draft.
But Tuesday’s meeting with the Stars at Verizon Center could be particularly meaningful for Erskine who is expected to skate in his 400th career NHL game.
“I should have played 400 [games] a long time ago,” Erskine said. “I’ve been through a lot of injuries and healthy scratches, but if I’m in the lineup [Tuesday] facing the first team that drafted me, it will be a good experience.”
Erskine has played just three games this season after undergoing shoulder surgery last May. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound defenseman has been a frequent visitor to the Caps training room since signing with Washington in 2006 but finally stayed healthy last season.
Erskine had a career year in 2010-11, appearing in 73 games and recording four goals and 11 points – all personal bests. He was also rewarded last December with a two-year extension that will keep him in D.C. through the 2012-13 season.
But as Erskine has grown comfortable with his surroundings in Washington, the 31-year-old still appreciates the opportunity provided to him by the Stars to start his professional career more than ten years ago.
“The team was unbelievable to me,” Erskine said. “They brought me up and the older guys like [Mike] Modano and [Derian] Hatcher and [Richard] Matvichuk kind of took me under their wings and helped me along.
“When I played there, the majority of the team was old. They would take guys out for dinner all the time. [Sergei] Zubov would take me out for dinner in training camp, so little things like that would help young guys along the way and it meant a lot.”
Erskine played 107 games for Dallas from 2001-05, before being dealt to the New York Islanders. After a 26-game stint on Long Island, Erskine signed with the Capitals as a free agent, where he has since played 258 games.
Erskine’s status for Tuesday likely rests on the health of Mike Green. Green has missed five straight games and does not appear ready to return. If Green is cleared to play, Erskine could be a healthy scratch.
Catch the Capitals and Stars Tuesday at 7:05. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame on Federal News Radio, 1500AM and online at www.wfed.com.