Even as veteran Tom Poti slides in and Kundratek gets a promotion, it’s not easy for the Caps to make up for everything Green brings. But that doesn’t mean they want him to hurry back and risk making things worse.
“It’s a situation where when you get hurt, you want to make sure that when you come back in the lineup you don’t have to leave again because of the same injury,” said Poti, who missed two years with a groin injury and fractured pelvis. “You want to make sure you’re 100 percent and you don’t want to have to be thinking about it.”
It’s especially concerning given the Caps’ reliance on Green in all situations and his lengthy injury history. Oates wasn’t around for most of that, but he knows how valuable an asset the defenseman is when healthy and how delicate a situation he and the team are dealing with.
“Obviously very frustrating. And I’m sure he’s frustrated,” Oates said. “We have to be very cautious. We definitely don’t want to set him back.”
“I play my game,” Carlson said. “The only thing that really changes for me is I just get more power play. I play the penalty kill and I don’t change my game five-on-five because he’s out of the lineup.”
If the Rangers game is any indication, Kundratek will be counted on to be more than just a third-pair defenseman and a power-play specialist. Alzner and Oates praised the 23-year-old rookie, who played a career high 23:25.
“It does make a big difference,” Brouwer said. “To lose your best up-ice skating defenseman is tough, especially when you’re trying to score goals because a lot of offense is created from our D-men jumping up in the rush. And when you lose someone like him who is that offensive threat, it makes one less weapon on the offensive aspect.”
But the thought of losing Green for more than a few games is not something the Caps want to consider, so patience is a painful, but necessary, virtue.
“We’d rather have him healthy than playing hurt,” Erskine said. “We have the right trainers and stuff that will make sure he won’t rush it back because it is a short season and we’re going to need him in the long run.”
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