Mike Green was day-to-day in late October. Then out until at least Feb. 1. But with nagging groin injuries, it never was clear when the Washington Capitals defenseman would really be ready to return.
Now, there's finally a clear timeline, though it comes as a result of the sports hernia surgery Green underwent Tuesday in St. Louis. It knocks him out four to six weeks but brings peace of mind and clarity moving forward.
"It will now eliminate the unknown," Capitals general manager George McPhee said. "Sometimes when you take the conservative approach, it takes a while and you don't really know when the player's going to be ready. With this procedure, we know when the player should be ready."
Though it's hard to accept that Green will miss another 12 games after being out for 34 of the first 44 this season, teammates recognize the 26-year-old going under the knife now is the best move for all involved.
"Hopefully, it's going to do well for Mike and see him back in the lineup when he's a hundred percent. But this is something we don't have control of," said defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who was bothered by groin problems an entire season he spent with the New York Islanders. "Injuries happen. Unfortunately, Mike is our key on the blue line. We don't want to see any players get hurt or have major surgery, but hopefully he's going to be fine and see him in the lineup."
Green has been out with shoulder, groin, hip and ankle injuries and a concussion in the past season and a half. This year, specifically, the Caps have grown accustomed to life without Green.
Dmitry Orlov has performed beyond expectations, McPhee said, and Dennis Wideman will make his first NHL All-Star appearance later this month as he has supplied plenty of offense in Green's absence.
The onus, as it has been since Green first was injured Oct. 22, is on the entire team to chip in.
"I think we miss him a lot, especially in the offensive zone and defensive zone. He was our best 'D' and he's still our best 'D,' " captain Alex Ovechkin said. "It's a hard game, and sometimes it just happens when you get hurt and you can't recover so you need surgery."
The biggest challenge for the Caps might be off the ice.
"As a teammate, it [stinks]. He's a fabulous player. I've played with Mike a long time. He's a good buddy of mine. I miss him out there," forward Brooks Laich said. "Trying to keep his spirits up away from the rink and in the locker room even. He's around, and he still sees the guys, and we try to keep his spirits up."
Something that might lift Green's sprits is the history of players who have had a sports hernia operation and gone on to have careers without further issues. Assistant coach Dean Evason had the same surgery in the late 1990s, and though that happened near the end of his career, he reported never having problems again after years of groin pulls.
"Recovery is basically 3-3½ weeks. I was playing again in a month," Evason said. "It takes a bit of time to strengthen back up your abs. But as far as coming back pain-free and stronger, a hundred percent."
Green at 100 percent is something Dale Hunter hasn't seen up-close.
"It's one of the things, you've got to move on," the Capitals' coach said. "Every team goes through it, and we've just got to move on. When he gets better, we'll welcome him back with open arms."
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