- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2012

It was after his return to the Washington Capitals’ lineup last week against the Calgary Flames that Mike Green beat himself up for not being even close to his best. After missing 23 straight games with a groin injury, he was hopeful that time would give him a chance to return to All-Star form.

“I’ll just get the rust out of my game, and I’ll be back to normal soon,” he said.

But in his second game back, Saturday night at San Jose, Green aggravated that groin problem, and Thursday the Caps placed the defenseman on long-term injured reserve, which means he will be out until at least Feb. 1.

Groin injuries can linger. Defenseman Tom Poti last played a year ago Thursday and is also on LTIR.

“Every body is different. You can’t judge whether a player should play or not,” veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik said recently. “This is the kind of injury that can come back again and again.”

Green played just 7:11 Saturday in his second game back. He has missed 31 of the Caps’ 41 games this season and has played in just 59 games since the start of the 2010-11 season.

The Capitals get a $5.25 million exemption against the salary cap in Green’s absence, giving them significant flexibility.

Coach Dale Hunter has said a couple of times this week that there is no timetable for Green to return to skating, let alone playing.

“He needs more strength,” Hunter said, “so it’s a timetable once he gets enough strength he’ll be good.”

To take Green’s spot on the roster, the Caps recalled forward Cody Eakin from Hershey Bears (AHL). Eakin, 20, has three goals and three assists in 19 games with Washington this season.

Center Nicklas Backstrom was placed on the regular injured list earlier in the week and is eligible to return at anytime. But Backstrom (head) has not skated since Friday, and there’s similarly no timetable for his return.

Washington’s active roster now includes 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders.