The Washington Times - February 14, 2012, 04:04PM

This felt different for Mike Green, in a good way. The Washington Capitals defenseman now four weeks removed form sports hernia surgery skated hard for yet another day and appears to be on schedule to return to game action sooner rather than later.

“I feel good. I really do. Today was a great judging point for me to where I’m at. And I feel good,” a beaming Green said. “So it’s just a matter of me getting back into shape and getting myself firing. But today I have a smile on my face. I haven’t felt like this for a long time.”

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That’s a welcome sight for the Caps, who are 9-1-0 with the defenseman in the lineup. Green has played in just 10 of Washington’s 56 games because of first an ankle injury and then a groin problem.

But the operation at least put a definitive time line on his return. All along Green wanted to come back before that four-to-six-week range, and though that’s not going to happen, he’s on schedule.

Friday at the Florida Panthers and Saturday at the Tampa Bay Lightning seem like long shots, but it wouldn’t be out of the question to think Monday at the Carolina Hurricanes.

Green wants to go on the road trip but deferred to the Caps staff, including trainer Greg Smith. He doesn’t want to rush back.

“It’s important. I know I’ve been out for a long time. But it’s important that I come back when I’m ready,” Green said. “I definitely do not want to have another setback. That would kill me. So we’re in a good place right now. We’ll see about the weekend.”

Coach Dale Hunter cautioned that this is a day at a time situation and the Caps don’t want to rush Green back, despite his value to the team.

“He’s feeling better. We don’t want to get our hopes up too high; we have to buy our time,” Hunter said. “He’ll let us know when he’s ready. We can see him getting better. It’s just a matter of time.”

The smiles are there for a reason. Green is confident about his recovery and what he can now do.

“Just my stride. I couldn’t stride before. My leg was dead and that was the most frustrating part about it,” Green said. “Not only that, it was painful. Usually you can play with the pain, but when your leg’s dead and you don’t have the movement that you used to and the strength it’s frustrating. But I have all of that right now and it feels good.”