It wasn’t a familiar sight, but a very welcome one for the Washington Capitals: Mike Green on the point on the power play. Yes, it was in practice, and no, Green won’t be back for Wednesday’s game vs. the New York Rangers, but it’s progress.
“Finally was able to skate with the team, making a lot of progress here so still day-to-day,” Green said. “Nothing’s changed as far as the plan from before. But the good thing is I’m back on the ice and feeling good.”
Green has been day-to-day since roughly Nov. 12, the day after he suffered a right groin strain late in the first period at the New Jersey Devils. There is no timetable for his return, though his taking part in a full practice Tuesday for the first time since the injury is a good sign.
The defenseman went hard in a lot of drills and appeared to be getting closer.
“That’s the thing — I’ve been training hard off the ice and doing everything I can to stay in shape. But until you get back on the ice and you get skating, it’s hard to train for hockey,” Green said. “But I feel as good as I possibly could going back on the ice today. I just need a few skates to get my lungs and my legs back, and I’ll be back in no time.”
The Caps are 8-0-0 with Green in the lineup, and while everyone around the locker room will admit that he’s an important player, John Erskine didn’t want to turn his return into a magic elixir.
“I don’t think one guy’s going to make a team go 8-0,” Erskine said. “It’d be nice to see him come back. He’s a big part of our team.”
On the power play, five-on-five and on the penalty kill — Green is a big part of the Caps. But there’s a balancing act between wanting to get him in the lineup and not wanting him to re-injure the groin. This kind of injury can linger and pop back up, and the 26-year-old said he has to be “cognizant” of it the rest of his career.
“That is a fine line — injuries, and he’s such a key part of your team that you don’t want to set him back again,” coach Dale Hunter said. “We’ll make sure he’s ready, and [trainer Greg Smith] and them will monitor him. Most players will want to play. You’ve got to watch it. Smitty will know when he’s ready to go again.”