Mike Green upbeat, return to Capitals’ lineup in sight

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Mike Green couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. The elation was hard to hide. The Washington Capitals’ defenseman four weeks removed from sports hernia surgery skated again Tuesday and appears on track 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.”

Green was set to miss four-to-six weeks, which would put him in line to return anytime in the next couple weeks. There seems to be optimism that he could play sometime on the Caps’ upcoming trip at Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Ottawa, though coach Dale Hunter was uncertain if Green would take part in full team practice Wednesday.

“He’s feeling better. We don’t want to get our hopes up too high; we have to [bide] 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.”

Green wasn’t sure if he was going on the trip, but he’d like to. The defenseman knows, though, that he can’t rush anything.

“I know I’ve been out for a long time. But it’s important that I come back when I’m ready,” he 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.”

Neuvirth didn’t know

Michal Neuvirth said following Monday’s morning skate that he was starting against the San Jose Sharks. That’s not because he was told but because he figured as much with starter Tomas Vokoun sick.

Hunter said he was still “debating” who would start, though it seemed like Braden Holtby was the choice all along.

Holtby started, something Neuvirth didn’t know until he got to Verizon Center.

“It is tough, but what can I do? At least if I knew Holtsy gonna get the start, but, you know, no one told me, so I was getting prepared for the game,” Neuvirth said. “And when I show up, found out I was not playing, it was tough to swallow.”

Holtby allowed five goals on 35 shots in the 5-3 loss and was promptly sent back to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League.

Ice chips

Vokoun was on the ice Tuesday after missing two games with a bad flu. “It’s tough. You feel like you haven’t practiced in two weeks,” he said. He’ll likely be ready to play Friday at Florida. … The Caps trimmed the active roster to 22 players by sending Holtby and forwards Keith Aucoin and Joel Rechlicz back to Hershey. Rechlicz was suspended one game by the AHL for a cross-check from a Feb. 11 game when he was with the Bears.

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