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Caps' Schultz gets a chance after long layoff

by Alain Poupart
SUNRISE, Fla. — Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz admitted he was a little surprised when he got word Wednesday morning he would be in the lineup aagainst Florida.

The sixth-year veteran has been a regular in the press box since Dale Hunter took over as head coach and he’ll be making his first appearance in 2012.

“It feels good,” Schultz said after the Capitals’ optional morning skate. “It’s been a long time. Now it’s just going out there and playing within myself. Just doing what I do out there.”

Schultz has been a healthy scratch for the past 12 games, ever since he had 9:46 of ice time at Columbus on New Year’s Eve.

After playing in four of Washington’s first five games under Hunter, Schultz has been scratched 20 of the past 22.

Hunter said the decision to play Schultz had to do with the Capitals playing back-to-back games — Washington dropped a 4-3 overtime decision Tuesday at Tampa Bay.

Asked what he wants to see from Schultz, Hunter said: “He’s a defensive defenseman. We want to see him play sound defensively. He’s not an offensive D and he’s not going to be a tough guy out there, so we need a defensive defenseman.”

Schultz, who didn’t play fewer than 64 games in any of the last four seasons, has no goals and 5 assists with a plus-one ratio in 27 games this season.

John Erskine, who played 7:42 against Tampa Bay, is expected to sit out to make room for Schultz.

“I was a little bit (surprised) with how the last couple of months have gone,” Schultz said. “You don’t really know too much of who’s playing and who’s not, so it was a little bit of a surprise this morning.

“I’m just going to go out there and try to do what I can to help the team. I guess you don’t want to go too far outside, but I think (the key) is just not doing anything too fancy. It’s just playing within yourself and when you’re on the ice, do what you do, and when you’re not, cheering the guys on.”
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