NEW YORK -- Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates is a firm believer that the best weapon this time of the year is rest.
So after a tough 4-3 loss in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to the New York Rangers on Monday, that's exactly what Oates gave his players in preparation for Game 4 Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS2).
"At this time of the year I'm not worried about conditioning," Oates said. "It's more fatigue and getting better prepared mentally. So we'll take [Tuesday] off and recharge the battery."
Forward Troy Brouwer welcomed the rare off day but said he was a bit surprised.
"I guess it's a little bit of a surprise but [Oates] said it was an emotional game [Monday] and he wanted us to be able to clear our heads and relax," Brouwer said. "We'll come back with fresh minds and fresh legs on Wednesday. We'll find something to do in the city. [Oates] was a player … he knows how stressful these games can be, how tough these games are to bounce back. He's just giving us an opportunity to relax and clear the minds."
Oates isn't worried about being second-guessed on his decision to give his players the day off in the midst of a best-of-7 series his team leads 2-1.
"That doesn't cross my mind because every decision you make is second-guessed by someone," he said. "Rest is the most important weapon right now; it's very stressful this time of year. Any chance we get to help the players recharge, we'll do it."
Oates informed the media that defenseman John Erskine, who was the recipient of a tremendous body check by Rangers captain Ryan Callahan 15:37 into the first, said he was feeling fine Tuesday and should be ready to play Wednesday. The Callahan hit kept Erskine out the remainder of the first period and the first six minutes of the second.
"It was good to see him come back," Brouwer said. "He looked a little shaken up but he's a tough guy and he'll come back and play hard. That's who he is and he's one of those guys they'll try and target because he played quite a few minutes for us. So to get him back was a relief; hopefully he'll use the day off to clear his head and relax."