The Washington Times - January 3, 2012, 05:27PM

New system, for sure. But don’t expect Mike Green to need a long time to pick it up.

The Washington Capitals All-Star defenseman returns to game action Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames, and though he’s been out 23 games and the first 15 of Dale Hunter’s tenure, Green seems the perfect fit for this style.


“He’s been around the team now and skating and watching games. He sees what we’re trying to do here,” Hunter said. “He’s a smart player and he’s got skill, so it’s going to be easy for him.”

Timing is the key issue, the Caps’ coach said, given that Green hasn’t played since Nov. 11 and hasn’t played more than eight minutes since Oct. 22. The groin injury he suffered in November may keep him from being 100 percent, but Green told reporters earlier in the day that he wasn’t worried about that.

“Each day I’m getting better,” he said. “I’m going to play so that’s all that matters.”

Green’s role may be a limited one, which Washington could afford given that seven defensemen are dressing. It might even make sense for Green to just see power-play time rather than him risking high-stress minutes.

As for a minutes limit, Green said: “You guys will find out tonight. But again it goes back to just easing into things. I don’t think going out there for 25 minutes would be a great idea. But if that’s the way it goes, that’s the way it goes.”

Under 25 minutes would be a smart bet.

Bigger role for Knuble

Mike Knuble’s spot on the fourth line has been a subject of much controversy in the past month and a half or so. The 39-year-old right wing just recently played his 1,000th game but did so alongside Matt Hendricks and Mathieu Perreault.

But Alexander Semin missing Tuesday night’s game against the Calgary Flames is an opportunity for Knuble to slide up and play wit more skilled teammates.

“Mike has a better opportunity; he’s playing up a couple lines. He’s been playing well the last two games,” Hunter said. “He’s got good scoring chances, bringing the puck hard to the net. We monitor the scoring chances and who gets them and he’s been getting them. They haven’t been going in, but it’s a good sign that he’s been getting them.”

Iginla night?

Flames superstar Jarome Iginla is one goal shy of 500 for his eventual Hall of Fame career.

The Caps hope Calgary’s captain doesn’t hit that milestone at Verizon Center, but Hunter didn’t hesitate to compliment Iginla.

“He’s a character guy, and he’s a real professional and he plays the game hard and he scores goals and he carries himself really well,” Hunter said.