NEW YORK | Mike Green will miss the Washington Capitals’ game Sunday night at the New York Rangers with a lower-body injury, coach Adam Oates confirmed after the team’s morning skate.
It’s a significant blow for the Caps not to have their No. 1 defenseman who can play all situations.
“He’s a player on this team that we don’t have another one of. Not many teams have another Mike Green,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It’s going to have to be done by committee because it’s a big loss anytime he’s out.”
Green did not take part in the optional skate at Madison Square Garden after leaving Saturday’s practice early. He appeared to suffer the injury in the final minutes of Thursday night’s game at the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Green did make the trip to New York with the team and could be seen walking around the locker room.
Veteran Tom Poti is expected to take Green’s place in the lineup. Poti hasn’t played since Feb. 5 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I’m pumped,” Poti said. “It’ll be fun to get back in playing some games and having some fun.”
It’s uncertain how long Green will be out. Oates said he was hopeful it would just be this game.
“Some of the other guys get an opportunity to get some more minutes,” the coach said.
The 27-year-old Green has dealt with a laundry list of injuries throughout his NHL career, including a groin problem that became an abdominal tear and required sports hernia surgery last season. He missed 44 games of the 2011-12 season with that and six more with an ankle injury.
Green leads the Caps in ice time at 26:33 a game, a workload that’s sixth in the NHL. “Absolutely” those minutes will have to be spread around, Oates said.
Expect John Carlson to take over Green’s spot on the top power-play unit. Tomas Kundratek could see more power-play time as well.
“I think [Green is] our best D and we’ll see how it goes,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “We’ll see what happens. Of course it’s gonna hurt us, but we’re gonna have different guys on PP and different guys gonna have more ice time.”
Green appeared to be laboring on Nate Thompson’s goal with 3:13 left Thursday but stayed on the ice for the ensuing faceoff. He called for a replacement from the bench and stepped off with 2:40 left after struggling to skate. Soon after he went down the tunnel.
Poti is expected to start alongside Alzner, though that could change. Getting back in with Green hurt is not the way the 35-year-old wanted things to go, but he hopes to take advantage.
“No, not at all. He’s been playing really good for us,” Poti said. “It sucks to have him out, but it’s a chance for me to go in and play and we’ll see what I can do.”
Alzner was already the Caps’ leader in ice time Thursday (26:14), thanks in large part to a lack of power plays, and it’s possible that increases in Green’s absence.
“If there are more than 26 you’re going to see me laying on the ground after the game here,” Alzner joked. “Whatever it takes. It doesn’t really matter. If my minutes are increased, I’m going to make sure I’m worthy of those minutes. I don’t want to be going out there and taking up minutes from somebody say, like, Kundy, and not be doing as good as he is. It’s a little bit more pressure for us to make sure that we’re filling the shoes the right way.”
Not having Green on the power play hurts, but it’s the transition game where the Caps could struggle at the Rangers.
“The tough thing with losing him against a team like this is he’s so good at moving the puck,” Alzner said. “He’s good at lugging it out of the zone and passing it out of the zone. You need to move it quick against these guys.”
That, too, becomes a team effort with Green out.
“It’s not good that we’re gonna play without him,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “Other guys got to step forward.”