It is tied for the second-lowest total ice time Schultz has skated in a single game, out of 344 regular season NHL contests. The only time he skated fewer minutes was Nov. 24, 2008 at Minnesota, when he played just 3:09 — but he broke his finger in that contest and went on to miss the next month. Based on comments from the coaching staff, Schultz’s lack of involvement was not injury-related.
Other players typically identified as defense-first blue-liners, like Karl Alzner and John Erskine, were not kept on the bench in the same fashion. Alzner has become the squad’s steadiest defenseman and he finished with a team-high 27:40 against the Senators, while Erskine was limited to only three shifts in the third but played 12:56 total.
“We’re on the road, they have the last line change. We don’t want to get in a situation where we’re mismatched defensively,” said assistant coach Jim Johnson, who works primarily with the defensemen. “It was a very difficult situation, and I told Schultzie it wasn’t for lack of trying to get him out there, but every time we had him out we either had a penalty, went on the power play or had a kill situation or they were coming up with [Ottawa’s top two lines] and I didn’t feel it was the right matchup for him or for our team last night.
“Nothing against him; the time he played, I thought he played well,” Johnson continued. “We’ve just got to continue to work with him and make him better and get him believing that he is the player that he was two years ago.”
In 25 games this season, Schultz has five assists, a plus-1 rating, six penalty minutes and an average time on ice of 16:09 per game. In each of the previous three regular seasons, Schultz averaged no less than 19:46 of playing time per game. The 25-year-old is in the second season of a four-year contract that has a salary cap hit of $2.75 million each season through 2013-14.