ARLINGTON, Va. – Just keep skating, just keep skating. That’s about all the injured Mike Green (concussion) can do for now. He’s not eligible to come off the Capitals’ long-term injured reserve list until March 22 at the Flyers.
But the Norris Trophy finalist skated with teammates at practice Saturday and said he’s improving by the day.
“I think every day since I started skating, I pushed a little harder and participated in a lot more drills than maybe I had in the past,” Green said. “But it takes time, and I’m getting close but not there yet.”
Green has time, given that LTIR forces a player to miss 10 games or 24 days. The Caps are doing OK without him, with the pairings of John Carlson and Karl Alzner, Scott Hannan and Dennis Wideman and John Erskine and Jeff Schultz holding their own. Obviously Green would love to get back in time to face Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia, but he’s not going to endanger his health to do so.
“I think now I know, you know how you feel and what’s too much and what’s not and I do have some time, so there’s no point in rushing and just making sure that I’m not pushing too hard till I’m ready,” he said. “I’m getting better each day, which is good.”
Goalie injury updates
Semyon Varlamov (knee) worked out on the ice before Caps practice with goalie coach Arturs Irbe. He took shots, but left practice about 15 or 20 minutes in.
Michal Neuvirth seems much further along, and he’ll likely back up Braden Holtby on Sunday vs. Chicago at Verizon Center. Neuvirth suffered an eye injury at Tampa Bay March 7 when a shot deflected off his mask, knocking it off and sending a piece of metal flying into his eye. But the Czech goalie said he’s feeling better and his vision is normal now.
Ovi-ism of the day
Each day that Alex Ovechkin speaks (and I’m there to listen to him), I’ll bring you an Ovi-ism of the day – raw, uncut, unedited Ovechkin, without sentences Americanized. I’m not doing it to make Ovechkin look bad, but more to give you all a taste of how the superstar speaks with us.
Q: Do you feel personally you’re playing your best hockey of the season right now?
Ovechkin: “Things goes right. Pucks goes to the net. I’ve had some chances and I would create some chances, so I feel pretty good and I don’t wanna stop it. I just wanna continue playing how I’m playing.”
The Blackhawks come into Sunday’s matchup with the Caps at Verizon Center (12:30, NBC) a well-rested team. Chicago – which practiced after the Caps at Kettler on Saturday – hasn’t played since Wednesday.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said he expected the defending Stanley Cup champions to be “hungry” after two straight losses. They’ve been in Washington for a couple days now, having been honored at the White House Friday, and Boudreau hopes it’s been a good trip … that ends on a bad note for Chicago.
“I hope the city of Washington has been taking very good care of them,” he said, drawing laughs. “They’ll be ready to play; they’re champions. They just got honored by the president [Friday] and they’re not gonna come in and wanna play a stinker after that. They’ll be at their absolute best.”
No carryover from Campbell hit?
Last season’s matchup between the Caps and Blackhawks – a year ago Monday – was a 4-3 Washington overtime victory. It was a furious comeback that featured three Caps goals in less than three minutes but also a hit by Ovechkin on Brian Campbell that led to a game misconduct.
Boudreau wishes for another game with that entertainment level but doesn’t expect any retribution from that play.
“Everybody knows it wasn’t a dirty hit,” the coach said. “I think [the Blackhawks] know too. They just lobbied for the suspension.”
Ovechkin was asked about there being extra intensity because of the hit but chose instead to talk about the things Boudreau pointed out – plus the fact that this game means something for the Caps this season as they chase down the East’s top see.
“Last year was kind of a great game to watch hockey,” Ovechkin said. “There was fights, great comeback and I think we know that they have an unbelievable team and we have to prove like we’re a better team than them.”
For the record, here’s the play in question: