It was a different setting than most press conferences I’ve attended. But there we were in the courtyard of a Manhattan hotel chatting with a few Caps players who were ready to…well, we’re not sure exactly and they weren’t either.

That’s because instead of practicing at Prudential Center in Newark on Tuesday morning as planned, Washington coach Adam Oates decided to give his team a full day off after a loss to the New York Rangers the night before in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup playoff first-round series. The Caps lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.

Maybe there would be a team dinner and a video session later in the day, maybe guys who didn’t play much would get a workout in at the hotel. Otherwise, players were on their own. And during the postseason that’s sometimes more important than an optional practice half the players would choose to miss anyway.

“I’m a little surprised, but rest is a weapon,” forward Eric Fehr said. “That’s what all the veteran guys always say. We’re going to take it today, we’re going to watch some video, we’re going to learn from it and we’re going to be better next game.”

Oates gave his reasoning. Every playoff game carries with it mental stress and time away from the rink helps. The Caps also arrived back at their hotel following Monday’s game well after midnight, some are nursing minor injuries and, to be honest, trekking by bus to Newark – Madison Square Garden ice was unavailable today with the Knick’s hosting an NBA playoff game tonight – wasn’t exactly worth it, according to Oates.

“At this time of year, I’m not worried about conditioning,” Oates said. “So it’s more fatigue. It was late, what are you going to get accomplished today? Maybe mentally the day off, recharge the battery and go at it tomorrow.”

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