- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2013

NEW YORK — Mike Green missed Sunday night’s game at the New York Rangers with a lower-body injury, and it was not immediately clear how long the Washington Capitals defenseman will be out.

Green, who appeared to suffer the injury late in Thursday night’s victory at the Tampa Bay Lightning, skated just 15 minutes Saturday and was not on the ice for Sunday’s morning skate at Madison Square Garden. Asked about a time frame for Green, coach Adam Oates said he didn’t know but was hopeful the No. 1 defenseman would miss just the Rangers game.

“He’s got a few more days,” Oates said.

The Caps don’t play again until Thursday night, when they host the New Jersey Devils.

The Caps hope they’re not without Green for an extended period of time, as the 27-year-old is their leader in overall ice time (26:33 a game) and on the power play. Oates has leaned on Green in 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 a big loss anytime he’s out.”

Veteran Tom Poti replaced Green in the lineup Sunday night, his first game action since Feb. 5 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Green made the trip to New York with the team, unlike forward Marcus Johansson, who’s out with an upper-body injury. Forward Brooks Laich did not skate Sunday as he battles a groin injury, though he did do some off-ice workouts.

The Caps have managed to handle life without Laich and Johansson, but if they must now add Green to that list, it puts an onus on puck-moving right-handed defensemen John Carlson and Tomas Kundratek.

The 23-year-old Kundratek has impressed the coaching staff since his call-up from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League following the season opener. Oates said he has “a lot of faith” in Kundratek’s ability on the power play.

“He scored a lot of goals in Hershey playing in [Alex Ovechkin’s] spot,” Oates said. “He obviously fits into our puzzle in terms of the right-shot defensemen. We like it, and we’re very confident in him.”

Halpern happy with Rangers

Forward Jeff Halpern’s sojourn around the NHL has taken him to six different teams, including two stints with the Washington Capitals. It wasn’t all that surprising that he kept finding a home as a useful role player.

Even at 36 years old, Halpern managed to get a guaranteed contract this offseason, signing with the New York Rangers. Unlike last season with the Caps, Halpern, at least so far, is a full-time player for coach John Tortorella and enjoying filling whatever roles are asked of him.

“I’ve been real happy,” Halpern said in a phone interview Saturday night. “It’s a great team, great organization, great coaching staff. It’s been a lot of fun. I think just playing in the NHL is a blast, but there’s a few organizations that I think are always special places to play and this is one of them, for sure.”

The Potomac native got to play seven seasons for the team he grew up rooting for, plus the Montreal Canadiens along the way. But the Rangers were the team willing to give him a one-year, $725,000 deal and a roster spot.

Halpern figured to kill penalties and take crucial faceoffs for the Rangers. Along with captain Ryan Callahan, he has been one of the top penalty-killing forwards, but Halpern hasn’t been used as heavily on faceoffs as expected.

“It’s little things where I’m kind of playing wherever’s asked right now,” he said. “It’s one of those things where, when it’s called upon, I enjoy doing it and just kind of going with the flow.”

After losing eight of his 10 draws in the season opener at the Boston Bruins, Halpern has recaptured some of the same form that led him to be fifth in the league last season at 58.3 percent.

“I struggled my first handful of games; my numbers weren’t the same as they were last year,” said Halpern, who has won 55.2 percent of faceoffs with New York. “I think it took some time to win some confidence back, from everyone. I’ve settled in a little bit more now and felt more comfortable, and I think I’m starting to get used a little bit more in that role.”